It’s the show that promises mega bucks to contestants after they renovate, revamp and revitalise rundown buildings by turning them into top-end luxury apartments.
But this season of The Block has come under fire, after it was accused of hiding the true history of the derelict building that is currently being made over, the Gatwick Hotel in Melbourne’s beachside suburb of St Kilda.
While promotional clips label the building a “grand old dame” who has “certainly seen her fair share of wear and tear,” the Gatwick Hotel’s past as a boarding home that has offered discount accommodation to the disadvantaged and in need appears to have been glossed over.
Angry locals have taken to Twitter after the first episode of the show was aired, calling out the series for ignoring the building’s past – and its residents.
Others tweeted their outrage at the reactions of the contestants to the rundown building, and the lack of empathy towards those who used to call the Gatwick their home.
The Gatwick’s former owners, twin sisters Yvette Kelly and Rose Banks, were reportedly forced to sell after struggling with the upkeep of the property.
After putting the hotel on the market in late 2015 for $15 million, Channel 9 eventually bought the property for $10 million – a move the sisters made their thoughts very clear on with a parting message they plastered over the front doors of the property when they left.
The closure of the boarding house has now seen former residents being displaced and moved to other areas and housing alternatives.
It’s since been reported some former Gatwick dwellers have returned to the area because they can’t afford their new accommodation, or prefer the locale of their previous home and its proximity to homelessness services
“Eight people who used to live in the Gatwick now sleep in the 7-Eleven opposite where they used to live,” homelessness support worker Donna told The Age.
Channel 9 tells Be the hotel doors had been closed for a number of years before it was purchased for The Block.
“It was a condition of the sale by the Nine Network that the long term residents of the hotel were successfully re-housed before any purchase of the building could proceed,” reveals a spokesperson.
“It was a co-ordinated effort that was carried out over nine months and the existing residents were consulted throughout every step of the process.
“The Block has been a major supporter of many local charities that tackle the issue of homelessness in our society and will continue to raise awareness and donate money for this cause.
“The history of the building, both in terms of its original use as a glamorous tourist destination and it’s more recent fall from grace was dealt with extensively in the lead up to the broadcast in the promotional campaign for the show.”
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