The first of almost 60 new social housing units in Footscray and Maidstone could be in place by the end of the year following a $3 million state government injection into the project.

Launch Housing is moving 57 new relocatable homes to house the homeless on to nine Ballarat Road sites owned by VicRoads in an Australian-first $7 million pilot project.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne last year used his powers to approve the project after it met with resistance from nearby residents, with Mr Wynne arguing it was “too important to be stymied by delays at VCAT”.

The modular housing units are being completely assembled in a factory, right down to the installation of whitegoods.

VicRoads has leased the vacant land to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which has sub-leased the sites to Launch Housing for an initial five-year period.

Launch Housing chief executive Bevan Warner said Australia was in the midst of a housing affordability crisis resulting in more and more people experiencing homelessness.

“Utilising under-utilised government land can help alleviate this problem,” he said.

“This project utilises under-utilised land in Melbourne’s inner-western suburbs to increase affordable housing stock.”

The project comes as the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) released a ‘Homelessness Heat Map’ on Monday revealing the Footscray electorate has the state’s third highest number of homeless people with 894, according to ABS data, behind only Melbourne and Dandenong.

Philanthropist father-and-son Geoff and Brad Harris have donated $4 million towards the units.

Brad Harris said they were attracted to the speed at which the units can be built, at a relatively low price, and the prospect the model could be rolled out elsewhere.

“The number of rough sleepers is ever-increasing, to move the needle you need to add additional dwellings at a faster rate than people are adding on to the end of the list,” he said.

“There’s no reason why this can’t be cranking out a couple of hundred dwellings a year and really ramping it up.”

Consumer affairs Marlene Kairouz visited one of the sites last Wednesday to announce the $3 million in funding from the Victorian Property Fund.

“I certainly look forward to seeing the completion of this project.”