A vacant building in Melbourne’s CBD will be repurposed for social housing, providing accommodation to dozens of rough sleepers in the heart of the city.

The $24.9m Make Room site will house up to 50 residents for up to 12 months in studio apartments and is scheduled to be completed in late 2024.

The project will repurpose a vacant six-storey council-owned building at 602 Little Bourke St and will be delivered in partnership with the Labor government, City of Melbourne, Unison Housing and philanthropic donors.

The site, which was formerly used as an electricity supply building, also has a basement and rooftop.

City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the project would set a “new standard” for transitional supported accommodation in Victoria.

“The whole community benefits when we work collaboratively to help people out of homelessness,” she said.

“We’ve seen that people can take back control of their lives when housing and support is available.”

The Allan government has provided $9m in capital funding for the project under the Building Works stimulus package and the Sustained Solutions for Housing First to end Rough Sleeping initiative, while $4.8m was set aside for on-site support and management in the Victorian budget.

There will be 10 apartments on each of five levels, with each studio apartment including a bedroom, kitchenette and ensuite bathroom.

Make Room residents, having experienced ongoing homelessness, will also be supported in accessing services such as health care, alcohol, drug, and mental health services.

There will be a floor dedicated to providing safe and secure accommodation for women experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and all tenants will receive assistance in accessing long-term accommodation at the end of their 12-month stay.

Make Room facilities will include a rooftop garden and spaces to engage in recreational and social activities, such as gardening.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2021 census, released in March 2023, 130 people were sleeping rough on the streets of Melbourne.

Of those 130, 15 per cent were aged 15-25 years old and 5 per cent were First Nations peoples despite Aboriginal persons only constituting 0.5 per cent of the population.

According to the Melbourne By Name List, a tool that accounts for every person experiencing homelessness in Melbourne in real time, there are 78 people experiencing chronic homelessness and sleeping rough in the city as of September 2023.

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