A small business owner has explained how he is able to live in public housing while complaining about losing thousands of dollars during Melbourne’s lockdown.
Steve Pat was unable to leave his one-bedroom flat in Flemington Towers with 3,000 others while the building was locked down most of last week.
He started a GoFundMe to cover the up to $4,000 he stood to lose from being unable to operate his cleaning business for as long as two weeks.
The hardworking Turkish-Australian said he had to cancel all jobs booked for the week and turn down numerous calls requesting his services.
Steve Pat is unable to leave his one-bedroom flat in Flemington Towers in Melbourne due to coronavirus lockdown and has to cancel all his jobs for the next two weeks
Mr Pat has since faced a huge backlash from Australians questioning how he qualified for public housing while earning thousands a fortnight.
He claimed that, contrary to popular belief, working people living in Flemington Towers paid close to market rate for the area.
‘I pay $340 a week for my unit, it’s only subsidied by $40 or $50 compared to market rate for what is a really nice area,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘There’s heaps of people on six figures (annual income) who live here. We have a really good community here so people want to stay.’
Mr Pat said he had planned to buy a house in Melbourne’s outer suburbs this year but the coronavirus pandemic ruined those plans.
Residents of 10 towers in Flemington (pictured), North Melbourne, and Kensington were banned from even setting foot outside their door on Saturday
Mr Pat said he had to cancel all jobs booked for this week and turn down numerous calls requesting his services
‘My business has only taken off in the past year, I probably only earned $30,000 last (financial) year,’ he said.
‘It’s really hard to get financing when you’re self-employed too, the banks need a bigger deposit and don’t want to lend to you.’
Mr Pat said much of his earnings went to support his two sons, aged six and nine, who live with his ex-wife in Turkey and had to cancel a trip to visit him.
He also has business expenses of up to $300 a week to cover from the cash he is paid for jobs.
There are many documented cases around Australia of residents living in public housing while earning high wages.
This is usually the result of long-term residents gaining better jobs but not moving out, and their rent is generally increased accordingly.
Residents of 10 towers in Flemington, North Melbourne, and Kensington were banned from even setting foot outside their door last Saturday.
Mr Pat and his neighbours had to walk to the lobby to collect a box of essential groceries despite being ordered not to leave their rooms. Pictured is supplies being delivered to the bottom of the public housing block
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the drastic measure would last at least five days as a renewed coronavirus outbreak ripped through those suburbs.
Mr Pat feared the lockdown would last a full two weeks if any of his fellow residents refused tests, according to his detention directions.
Mr Andrews promised free rent for the next two weeks and $1,500 for anyone unable to work due to being stuck in the locked down suburbs.
‘I appreciate that, but I usually make a lot more than that,’ Mr Pat, who is a sole trader, told Daily Mail Australia last week.
‘People think we’re whingers and that we shouldn’t complain as we get a free rent, but I’d rather pay my rent and not get any money and be out there doing my job.
‘Most people think everyone who lives here is a bum or a drug user, but it’s nowhere near that.’
Mr Pat admitted he may have ‘overreacted’ to the hard lockdown of his tower block in making the GoFundMe, which he’s since taken down, but said the episode was not well handed by authorities.
After being caught by surprise when the no-warning lockdown came in, many of those in the buildings are furious at a lack of food and information from authorities
Food and drink packages (right) were delivered to residents by police (left) on Saturday night but some complained they did not receive essentials such as bread and milk
Common complaints from the towers
– Lack of essential supplies and food
– Heavy handed attitudes of police in enforcing the stay-at-home orders
– Inability to go shopping is at odds with others in the hotspot postcodes
– Lack of protective equipment such as masks for residents
– No information provided about length or reasons behind lockdown
He and his neighbours had to walk to the lobby to collect a box of essential groceries despite being ordered not to leave their rooms.
‘I haven’t been told anything by anyone, no authority has knocked on my door other than the police to give me the detention directions,’ he said.
‘We can test 20,000 people in Melbourne in 24 hours, why couldn’t they test us yet?’
‘This in my opinion is worse than prison as we don’t even get a hour outside to go for a walk and get some fresh air.
‘This is not just a loss of income but a loss of freedom, our everyday human rights.’
Mr Pat said he called a hotline for residents asking for cat litter and was told someone would call him back, but no one did.
Mr Pat’s tower block was eventually let out of total lockdown at 11.59pm on Thursday after six days.
Residents are still in lockdown with the rest of the Melbourne metro area but are now allowed to leave their flats for work and exercise.
Firefighters dressed in personal protective equipment prepare to distribute food throughout a public housing tower in North Melbourne on Tuesday