Call for athlete villages to be turned into low-cost housing

Real estate bodies and community housing advocates have called on the Victorian Government to turn Commonwealth Games accommodation, built for athletes in rural areas, into much-needed social and low-cost rental homes once the games are over.

The 2026 Victorian Commonwealth Games will run from March 17 to 29 across Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland and Shepparton.

Planning has already started for four athlete villages at the Waurn Ponds station precinct in Geelong, the Ballarat Saleyards, Flora Hill in Bendigo and English St in Morwell, according to the Herald Sun.

Accommodation will be needed for almost 7000 participants in the games, including 2500 athletes and officials in Geelong, 1600 in Ballarat, 1800 in Ballarat and 1000 in Morwell. 

Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) Chief Executive Officer Quentin Kilian said the Games would provide a tourism boost for the state as well as ongoing infrastructure improvements to local sporting facilities.

But he urged the Victorian Government to plan and build the athlete accommodation carefully so they had a second life after the Games.

He called for the villages to become social housing or low-cost rentals, which would ease the state’s housing crisis and even provide a model for others to follow suit.

“Given that there is still a lot of pressure on availability of stock in regional Victoria, in all of the centres, it is imperative that the design of them has that in mind,” Mr Kilian said.

“That they can serve another purpose, an ongoing purpose, once the games are done. 

“It’s a real opportunity for the government to get a leg up on the lack of public housing.”

He said there was also an opportunity to introduce a low cost rental scheme with the accommodation after the games, similar in vein to the Federal Government’s National Rental Affordability Scheme, which is being phased out.

“It could be subsidised or it could be available to people on lower incomes who have a job but just don’t fit into that model of general rental housing.”

Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA) Acting CEO Jess Pomeroy echoed Mr Kilian’s calls, saying repurposing the athletes villages could leave a lasting legacy on the state that helped solve the housing affordability crisis.

“We’re asking the State Government to design the villages with that in mind, and to allow them to transition to long-term housing for the local communities,” she said.

Ms Pomeroy said CHIA Victoria proposed a mixed tenure model to be released immediately following the Games.

“We want to see 30 per cent social housing, 10 per cent affordable housing, 10 per cent market rentals and the remaining sold as homes for market sale,” she said.

“The Commonwealth Games legacy should leave housing which reflects the communities in which it is built and which addresses housing needs across the spectrum.”

Ms Pomeroy said the other critical factor was making sure the infrastructure for converting the accommodation, such as plumbing and electrical, was included in the design and not retrofitted later as it would slow down getting homes to those who needed them.

Mr Kilian said the other housing issue the State Government and local councils had to consider was where and how to house the workers needed to build the athlete villages and other Games facilities without putting more pressure on the rental market.

“When the INPEX Gas Project came to Darwin, there were 8000 workers and they built some workers’ villages, but they didn’t plan for the size of the workforce that was coming in and the massive pressure that went onto the rental market up there just shot rents up and there was no availability for the populace,” he said.

“So they need to see where those things have occurred and take that into account.”

Games Services Chief Kat Matson told the Herald Sun they were aware of the limited accommodation in regional Victoria and there would be additional pressure on Melbourne as a solution.

During the Games 3900 jobs are tipped to be created.

“We are looking at things like temporary workforce villages, standing them up,” she said.

“Not quite Qatar solutions, but something similar where we might even be able to repurpose it with our friends at Homes Victoria or even Emergency Recovery in the future.”

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.

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