Log in

Forgot your password?
You are here: Home / UrbanGrowth, SMDA & RWA Plans & Activities / Explorer Street Eveleigh Renewal / Explorer Street Rezoning Issues for Consideration

Explorer Street Rezoning Issues for Consideration

This page has been prepared by REDWatch to assist people in preparing their submissions about the Explorer Street Rezoning which closes on 1 December 2023. It covers background context to the proposal including on broader government policy that impacts the rezoning. It also covers the intended effects and identifies issues raised by the community.


How did we get here?

  • The Explorer Street site with 46 public housing homes and South Sydney Rotary Park are Government owned land under the control of Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC)
  • LAHC announced it wanted to redevelop Explorer Street in 2020 and exhibited some options
  • LAHC set about preparing a preferred proposal to Council for a rezoning
  • In November 2022 Minister Pavey announced the project would proceed.
  • In December 2022 it was announced that the site would be rezoned by Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) as a State-led rezoning
  • DPE retained Council study requirements such as the Social Impact Assessment
  • After the election the proposal has been adjusted to meet the new governments increase social and affordable housing targets of 30% social and 20% affordable
  • LAHC and City of Sydney Council have been on an advisory group to DPE
  • South Sydney Rotary Park in above the Eastern Suburbs railway tunnel making development difficult to build over and to even test for contamination.
  • This plan is based on a reference scheme developed by DPE which could deliver up to 400 units, 60 less than LAHC’s earlier proposal.

Housing types

To assist in understanding this proposal we are clarifying some housing types below:

Public housing – managed by Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) housing with rents set at a proportion of income for those that qualify for inclusion on the NSW Housing Register. Properties are normally publicly owned by LAHC or the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) but some privately owned property is also leased for public housing (most recently on the Rachel Forster site in Redfern).

Social housing includes Public Housing but also includes Community Housing Provider (CHP) properties where rents are set at a proportion of income for those that qualify for inclusion on the NSW Housing Register. CHPs are not-for-profit organisations that may run or own both social and affordable housing or homeless services and are federally regulated. Social housing properties may be owned by government, the CHP or privately. The Social Housing Management Transfer Scheme instituted under the former State Coalition government (2017) normalised the transfer of public housing (where possible) to Community Housing Providers. Because CHP social tenants can access Commonwealth Rental Assistance (CRA) and pay it to the CHP, so they have more income to run tenancy management and maintenance. The state government cannot access Commonwealth Rental Assistance. The LAHC model in redevelopments like Explorer Street is for the social housing to be run by a CHP not DCJ.

Affordable Housing - is aimed at providing housing for those on very low to moderate income households, sometimes including ‘keyworkers’ (but ‘keyworkers’ ‘essential workers’ and the like are not defined in legislation). In NSW affordable housing and its income levels are defined in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) 2021 (Housing SEPP).

There are two main types of affordable housing based on if the rents are set as a discount off market rent as was the case for the Federal National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) or if they are set as a proportion of household income (no more than 30%) per the Housing SEPP 2021. The NSW Affordable Housing Guidelines also contain guidance on fair-rent setting and eligibility for Affordable Housing and CHPs must refer to the Guidelines when administering Affordable Housing developed with financial assistance from the NSW Government or under state planning legislation. 

The NSW and/or Commonwealth Governments have had different schemes with different rules for housing developed with government assistance, including planning incentives. Affordable rental housing may be owned by private developers or investors, local governments, charitable organisations or community housing providers. It is usually managed by not for profit community housing providers, and sometimes by private organisations.

Duration of Housing type - Affordable housing may be for a limited duration such as for 10years under NRAS where the owner can sell the housing after that period. This system only works if there is new affordable housing stock coming on line to maintain affordable housing stock. Existing and proposed rules under the Housing SEPP are for time-limited Affordable Housing rent-setting (15 years in most instances; in perpetuity for boarding houses). Currently there is a suggestion that developers tendering for Waterloo may provide affordable housing for 15, 20 or 25 years.  Provision of housing in perpetuity is clearly preferable. In Explorer Street webinar Q&A DPE say that a decision about how long the affordable housing will remain affordable for has not yet been made.

Some General Issues raised about the proposal

Political / Government Issues

There are concerns about Government decisions and policies which impact this redevelopment. While they are outside the usual scope of a rezoning these issues can be raised as part of wider campaigns to influence Government and the Minister for Homes decisions around LAHC’s decisions on public housing redevelopment

  • Sale of Government owned land to provide private housing – Messaging before the election and after it indicated there would be no sale of public housing land, however the government does not see public housing redevelopment as selling off public land as it is part of a redevelopment – many disagree.
  • No plan yet on how Government will fund and increase public or social housing – currently they have only pushed LAHC to deliver the 30% they were supposed to deliver with 20% affordable on existing LAHC sites. This approach renews housing stock but produces minimal increase in much needed public or social housing. Government has made some smaller LAHC sites 100% social and affordable housing, will government fund 100% at Explorer Street? This would not require a change in zoning.
  • NSW ALP Policy was for a moratorium on public housing redevelopments until the government put a new approach in place. Adding 20% affordable housing is needed but does not increase social housing stock which the policy aimed at. The policy was for a pause until a new approach was decided.
  • Redevelopments of public housing make it harder for people on the wait list to get into public / social housing because social housing stock is reduced and the tenants are moved to other public / social housing that would otherwise go to people on the wait list. In many cases there is only a minimal increase in social housing many years later. The Explorer Street redevelopment will provide 64 extra social housing units in several years’ time. It will likely also reduce much needed large family housing.
  • LAHC is a self-funding Government body with parameters set by Government. In the absence of government funding LAHC relies on getting the maximum density on its sites to pay developers to build its housing and related facilities. The government should fund LAHC to build more public housing not sell off public housing land to fund renewal of existing stock that is still fit for purpose.
  • REDWatch supports increased density in our area provided it is supported by increased facilities and amenity and is density done well. That involves State and Local Government working together so that sites are planned in their local context, minimising impacts and contributing to broad community benefits.

Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) Issues

  • When LAHC get the land rezoned they will work out what they want to do on the site and have a selection process to find a developer interested to do the development.
  • LAHC will also work with DCJ Housing on a relocations plan for existing public housing tenants living on the site. Dealings with tenants should be governed by the Housing Compact principles put forward by Shelter NSW and the Tenants Union NSW to which Minister Jackson has indicated support. AS this rezoning disrupts an existing public housing community special care needs to be taken to minimise impacts of the change on these tenants.
  • The developer pays for the social housing from what it makes on the private housing. The new social housing returns to LAHC ownership and is run by a CHP.
  • Under the new government LAHC also expects developers to come up with a way of also delivering affordable housing. One way to do this is to only have the housing affordable for a limed period – such as 10 or 15 years rather than in perpetuity. At the end of affordable period the housing can be sold into the market to recover development costs. Some affordable housing schemes are a discount of market rent (say 20%) while those best suited to low income and key workers are based on their ability to pay and are set at 30% of income. Affordable housing in perpetuity based on income might be something people want in the rezoning rather than leaving it to LAHC and the developer.
  • What is not set in the LEP and to a lesser extent the design guide allow LAHC and developers wriggle room.
  • A Development Application (DA) from LAHC’s “Development Partner” will be made at a later stage and exhibited. Once approved and depending on subsequent DA modifications, the DA determines what is actually built and what it looks like. DA’s can seek changes to the planning controls and the design guide.
  • Size of Units proposed – the existing housing at Explorer Street caters for 64 large families. LAHC correctly say that the largest demand on the waiting list is for 1 and 2 bedroom units. While this is so in the inner city the longest waiting period (10 years +) is for people waiting for large units like those planned for demolition at Eveleigh. Removing large properties from the LAHC portfolio will make it even harder for large families (especially large Aboriginal families) to access properties in the Redfern Waterloo area.

Social Impact Assessment

Some of the issues raised in the above section have been examined in the Social Impact Assessment part (Sections 7 & 8) of the Social Infrastructure and Impact Assessment report for Explorer Street. This is an important study as it has been overseen by DPE rather than by consultants responsible to LAHC. It has also been undertaken in conformity with the NSW Social Impact Assessment (SIA) Guideline (2023) (SIA Guideline). SIA are normally only required at DA stage but as Council had requested such a study when Council was handling the rezoning DPE retained the requirement.
The report says: "This SIA has been prepared to thoroughly consider all possible impacts of the potential redevelopment on the existing and future residents of the site and surrounding neighbourhood. The majority of these impacts are expected to occur post-rezoning as a result of the redevelopment and tenant relocations that are needed to allow the renewal to proceed. In many cases existing NSW government policies, such as the LAHC Strategic Tenant Relocations Policy, along with other measures recommended in this SIA, will help to mitigate impacts on tenants ensuring that their needs are carefully considered and supported on a case-by-case basis".
In Conclusion the report says "Most of the anticipated positive impacts are expected to be long term and affect future residents of the development as well as the local community. Over half of the anticipated negative impacts are anticipated during the pre-construction period, and many of them are related to the relocation process for existing social housing tenants. It is acknowledged that this is beyond DPE’s responsibility following potential rezoning, however several measures have been identified that can be conducted by relevant stakeholder agencies to mitigate these impacts. Most of the longer term negative impacts could also be mitigated by measures proposed to be addressed at later phases of the redevelopment process i.e. development applications and/or management by housing provider." ... "A future Social Impact Management Plan should be prepared as part of future development application(s) in order to refine and ascertain the measures recommended in this SIA."
Council in its Submission states: "The City also supports the enhancement and mitigation measures addressed within the Social Infrastructure and Social Impact Assessment by WSP. The City reaffirms the importance for the relevant authorities to implement the measures identified in the assessment to support existing residents during temporary relocation and return to the site. The City supports the need for a Social Impact Management Plan to be prepared at the future application stage to refine the measures recommended in the Social Infrastructure and Social Impact Assessment."
As this site has an existing public housing community it is expected that most of the social impacts will be similar to other inner city public housing communities that might face development. No SIA has yet been done for Waterloo South and its Social Sustainability Study, commissioned by LAHC, did not deal with many of the issues covered in the Explorer Street SIA.
Care should be taken when looking at the demographic figures in the social baseline part of the report as Explorer Street and the adjoining social housing is part of a mixed Statistical Area (SA1) with a lot of private units in the SA1 so these figures are not characteristic of the public housing residents. A more accurate picture of public housing residents is provided by looking at public housing only SA1s in Waterloo, Redfern and Surry Hills. In addition the Explorer Street site sits on the Western extremity of Redfern Street Village which is used for the broader comparison. The site is a couple of streets away from the boundary of the King Street Village.
This is a rezoning exhibition
  • it sets land use, height and floor space and related issues in the Sydney Local Environment Plan (LEP)
  • it provides a design guide to act as a development control plan to deal with aspects which cannot be dealt with in the LEP. This is a guide the developer has to consider it can be over ridden by the final DA approval. DPE are considering making it binding.
  • The rezoning sets the controls and guiding principles LAHC and its developer can use to develop their own plan for the site which may be different to the DPE reference scheme. Artist impressions are just one possibility for what might happen on the site.

The intent of the rezoning is captured in the Explanation of Intended Effect and the Draft Design Guide. Generally the design guide is just a guide. It is best to have details where possible in the LEP rather than the Design Guide. DPE have flagged they may consider making the Design Guide more obligatory. Supporting studies raise issues that should be considered, submissions can raise issues from these studies if people don’t think an issue has been properly considered by DPE.

The proposal is to move controls for this site from the Eastern Harbour City SEPP and instead ensure the zone and planning controls for the site are included and regulated by Sydney LEP 2012. The social housing to the east of the site will remain in the Eastern Harbour City SEPP.

Below we have looked at the intended effects and made some suggestions for issues that could be covered in your submission in addition to any issues in the section above.

Land use zoning

There is no significant change in the land use zoning other than Council’s park to the east of the site being recognised and zoned as RE1 Public Recreation – the same zoning as South Sydney Rotary Park. The residential zoning is changed to R1 General Residential like the adjoining private land which allows for a variety of housing types including attached dwellings, residential flat buildings, boarding houses and group homes, and also allows for community facilities and neighbourhood shops.

As the park above the railway corridor must sit to the South of the proposed buildings sun access to the park is a major planning consideration this is why the building proposed in the middle of the block are lower than the 13 storey towers at each end to meet Council requirements that 50% of the park gets 4 hours sunlight in mid-winter.

Identified Issues: Currently LAHC own the land that South Sydney Rotary Park sits upon and Council maintain it. Ideally this land should be bought to the standard required by the City of Sydney and passed to them to own and run as a Council park. LAHC have been unable to get approval from Transport for NSW to undertake contamination testing of the site. Council in its submission has proposed that the rezoning be delayed until the situation is clarified and to when it is known if decontamination is required and the park can be transferred to Council.

Locals have raised concern about the park sloping to Henderson road and if this really gets mid-winter sun. The cross sections in the design report do not show this level shift to the street and site maps do not seem to go to the street as shown in the land use map. The proposal relies on the existing open space area fronting Henderson Road to provide open area amenity for the dwellings.  However a large part of this existing area comprises also a drainage retention basin.  This means that this area is unusable to people for considerable time after wet periods (rain). The development needs to provide for an alternative stormwater disposal system that keeps good drainage and usability of the park.

Floor space ratio (FSR)

The rezoning proposes that the site can build floor space almost 3 times the area of the residential zones land – The exact FSR is 2.94. The unit development to the east of the site has a FSR of 2:1 so the proposal is 50% greater than the adjoining development. The zoning goes over all residential land so the developer can use that FSRs anywhere on that site, including FSR from over open space, paths etc. provided it fits within the allowable height and the design guide is addressed.

Identified Issues: Is a FSR 50% above the residential units development to the east appropriate.

Height of Buildings

The proposed height of buildings is proposed not in height in metres of buildings as used in the surrounding controls but in “Reduced Levels” (R.L.)  or “Australian Height Datum” (A.H.D.) which is the relative height of a point in relation to Australian mean sea level. This makes it difficult to compare what is proposed with surrounding height controls.

The controls propose to increase heights from the existing heights (2 storeys) to 48.25 m RL in the middle (up to 9 storeys) and towers of 60.7 m RL (13 storeys) at each end. The site is 19 m RL in the North to 14 m RL in the South with infill above the rail line on the park raising the height by several metres. The Height of the unit buildings to the east of the redevelopment are 15 meters where the proposed 13 storey tower opposite it will be about 46.9 metres. To the south of the site heights are mainly 9 – 12 metres. 

While you know where the existing buildings are, the proposed height maps covers the entire residential portion of the site rather than setting heights building by building so the developers can make buildings of different heights within the planning height envelope. The reference scheme in the design guide shows a possible outcome of how the FSR might be spread across the allowable heights. It includes a mix of 4, 6, 7 and 9 storey building where 9 storey buildings could be in the height of buildings map. It also shows private open space between the buildings. Council in its submission has raised concerns that the existing proposal might allow higher buildings than the reference scheme in the design guide and wants heights linked to ensuring its sunlight requirements are met on the park. 

The height map also allows buildings of 3 metres to be built on South Sydney Rotary Park, which allows for 1 storey structures or buildings that may accommodate public amenities and small community buildings.

Identified Issues. Units at the western end will be overlooked by the new 13 storey building and potential loss of privacy has been identified as an issue. Usually you would look to graduate the scale of the development to adjoining property but to allow park solar access height has been pushed to both ends of the site. Given the site constraints it could be argued that the eastern end of the redevelopment should be similar to the surrounding properties and the FSR reduced accordingly. At 13 storeys the two towers will be taller than the channel 7 building at South Eveleigh and it has been questioned if this height is appropriate for the site and the surrounding context across the road in Alexandria and Erskineville.

Site-specific provisions

The Intent of the rezoning is to include a number of other site-specific provisions as detailed below:

Design Excellence – the LEP design excellence provisions will be required but provision for additional FSR and height will not apply to ensure the development fits within the FSRs and heights proposed.

Design Guide – the LEP will require the development consent authority to consider the design guide in giving DA consent. This includes additional design and amenity provisions that must be considered before granting consent to development on the site. The Department is also considering options for amending the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 (EP&A Regulation) to require development applications (DAs) made in respect of the Explorer Street Site to comply with the draft Design Guide. 

Identified Issue: This should be supported so the design guide cannot be circumvented.

Car Parking and traffic – given the site is close to Redfern, Erskineville and the Waterloo Metro the lowest car parking rates in the LEP (Cat A) are proposed – These are: • For each studio dwelling – 0.1 car parking spaces, and • For each 1 bedroom dwelling – 0.3 car parking spaces, and • For each 2 bedroom dwelling – 0.7 car parking spaces, and • For each 3 or more bedroom dwelling – 1 car parking space. The unit building to the east of the site has a large underground car park and is classed as Cat C. Under Council rules no one living in the proposed development will have an entitlement to parking permits. 

Identified Issue: Given the emphasis on low levels of parking and promotion of active transport the connecting bridge between South Eveleigh and North Eveleigh should be referenced in submissions to facilitate easy access to North Eveleigh and Sydney University. The referenced new Southern Concourse has minimal impact on the permeability over the rail line. Concern has been raised about traffic impacts on Henderson Road, Railway Parade and Park Streets as the only through streets. Council is proposing shared zones within the redevelopment.

Social and Affordable Housing - It is proposed to require 20% of floor space on the Explorer Street Site be used for the purposes of affordable housing in addition to the provision of 30% of floor space for social housing on the site. The Department is also considering whether amendment to the EP&A Regulation is appropriate to prescribe conditions on development consent to achieve these social and affordable housing thresholds. 

Identified Issue: The proposal to amend the regulations should be supported. There is no LEP provision proposed for Aboriginal Social and Affordable Housing – it is only mentioned in the design guide for 20% of the affordable housing (approx. 16 units) and not for social housing. Submissions should support 10% of the site being Aboriginal Affordable and Social Housing included in the LEP Site Specific provisions. Submissions should also request that all Affordable Housing be in perpetuity rather than only for a limited period. Rents should be based on income not a discount off market.

Local Infrastructure and Delivery – The City of Sydney Development Contributions Plan applies, consultation is underway. It is envisaged that development of the Explorer Street Site will be subject to payment of monetary contributions in accordance with the City of Sydney Development Contributions Plan 2015. 

Identified Issue: The Contributions Plan does allow for dedication of land to Council in lieu of cash but it is not clear from the documents what interest Council has in taking on the park. It is desirable that the park be transferred to Council rather than retained by LAHC. Council's submission provides detail on the issues around the park and what is necessary if it is going to own or manage it.

State Infrastructure - It is expected that future development for the renewal of the Explorer Street Site will pay a Housing and Productivity Contribution, and the delivery of social and affordable housing components of the development may offset part of this contribution. 

Identified Issue: This site should contribute towards a connecting bridge between North and South Eveleigh in line with the RWA Contributions Plan. For example Carriageworks fits within the 800m community facilities arc but is 1.8km away due to the lack of permeability across the railway line. The proposed bridge would address that and this development adds to the number of people on both sides of the railway that would benefit from such state infrastructure.

Contamination - The site historically formed part of the Eveleigh Railyards, and as such the site may potentially be contaminated. A contamination assessment is currently being carried out to identify the nature/extent of any contamination on the site. Once the contamination assessment is completed the Minister will consider the results of the assessment and decide whether the proposed rezoning of the site should proceed and with what conditions.

Identified Issue: See Council's submission on contamination and the issues around park transfer to Council.

Proposed amendment to Eastern Harbour City SEPP - As it is proposed to remove the application of the Eastern Harbour City SEPP, the Minister will no longer be the consent authority for development at the Explorer Street Site with a capital investment value of less than $10 million under these provisions.

Planning Systems SEPP - While the site is being removed from Redfern Waterloo Authority Sites under State Environmental Planning Policy (Planning Systems) 2021 (Planning Systems SEPP) it will remain a State Significant Development as the Planning Systems SEPP designates development on behalf of LAHC or the Aboriginal Housing Office as SSD for projects that have more than 75 homes or with a Capital Investment Value over $30 million in the precinct. Note that in accordance with the Planning Systems SEPP, development by or on behalf of LAHC for the purposes of the Housing Act 2001 is already designated SSD if the development has a capital investment value of more than $100 million. 

Identified Issue: SSD developments tend to look at sites in isolation rather than within the wider Local Government Area context. Having the City of Sydney as the consent authority for the development rather than the state government is likely to provide a better outcome for those around the site. If it is to be a SSDA, Council should be actively consulted and involved to help minimise issues for surrounding residents.

Housing SEPP - The site will be listed under Clause 1.9 of the Sydney LEP 2012 lists sites to which specified SEPPs do not apply to ensure that no additional floor space bonuses can be sought under the Housing SEPP.

Design Guide Issues

As mentioned previously DPE is also considering options for amending the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 (EP&A Regulation) to require development applications (DAs) made in respect of the Explorer Street Site to comply with the draft Design Guide.

Identified Issue: Requiring the Explorer Street development to comply with the Design Guide is important. This should be supported so the final development reflects the final design guide rather than just considers it. The finer detail in the Draft Design Guide is hence important and any issues noticed or missing should be raised in submissions.  Council's Submission raises many issues they consider need to be changed in the design guide.

Identified Issue: It has been suggested the draft design is very conventional and that LAHC should look at the Arkadia Apartments on Sydney Park Road in Alexandria, developed by Defense Housing Australia and comprising 55% build-to-rent (for Defense personnel) and 45% for sale on the open market.  It has won numerous awards for its livability and sustainability see https://architectureau.com/articles/arkadia/