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Comments by Housing Minister Rose Jackson relevant to Waterloo - 5 June 2023

At the 5 June 2023 REDWatch meeting, NSW Housing Minister Rose Jackson, responded on the proposed Federal Government housing policy initiatives. She later provided an update on the NSW Governments approach to public housing redevelopments including Waterloo. In the transcript below the Minister says it will be another month or so before the process set by the previous government can be assessed under the principles the new government wishes to apply. Later in the meeting the Minister confirmed the government was implementing the 2022 Labor Conference motion and outlined that the current focus was on items they did not need to legislate.

[The text below is taken from the audio of the meeting. It is based on a transcript and while we have endeavoured to check the transcript against the audio, REDWatch cannot guarantee it is without minor errors. The audio  is the correct record of what the Minister said and the location of the transcript below in the audio s shown in minutes and seconds for easy cross reference.]

Minister Rose Jackson (on Federal Housing Policy): (16.13 on audio)

The New South Wales Government is incredibly excited about the engagement with the Federal Government and local government partners about the prospect to do more on social and affordable housing.

I think, the interest that the Labor Government has shown in delivering social and affordable housing is an incredibly refreshing change from the approach of the previous government, which didn't even have a housing minister in the Cabinet and showed no interest.

So obviously we're enthusiastic about the Housing Australia Future Fund passing. We have got our team ready to go as soon as it does passes, assuming it does to put in submissions on behalf of our state, which we are thinking will secure somewhere around 16,000 new dwellings, new affordable housing dwellings for our state over five years.

That's not enough. It's not nearly enough to solve the housing crisis, but it's a good contribution. So that's a fantastic opportunity for us to build on that. We're really hopeful that it does pass, so all power to you, Tanya. We're also just enthusiastic about the delivery of the housing and homelessness plan from the federal government, an actual strategic approach to how we are going to resolve housing and homelessness.

We're very engaged in that. So, I think we've always said we're not interested in blame shifting. We're interested in working together. The federal government has shown that seriousness. We're trying to show that seriousness, too. But it's a big opportunity for us in New South Wales. I don't want to oversell it. I've never been interested in saying, the Federal Government's contribution alone is going to be enough to resolve the challenges we face.


There's no point when you get enough activity from politicians at one point pretending that that contribution alone is going to be enough. The state government is going to have to step up and do a lot more and we're interested in doing that. But having said that, we would not be able to resolve this challenge on our own without a federal partner who was going to put finance on the table, land on the table, options on the table. And so I think we have that.

Minister Rose Jackson (on Waterloo South): (26.30 on audio)

So in relation to Waterloo South, specifically, the position that the new government has adopted is not different to the position that we had before the election, which is that the previous government's proposition in relation to that redevelopment was a bad plan and we didn't support it.

Our capacity to rework that plan is limited at the moment because procurement is underway. That was a process that was commenced by the previous government and we aren't able to stop that without massive compensation to the participants in that process. And potentially we want to see what comes out of it. We don't know what's going to come out of that process.

I would say I'm advised it's probably about a month away from producing an outcome based primarily on the specifications that the previous government gave to that process. That would then be our opportunity to come in and say, okay, well, we didn't support that plan. How can we turn what that has produced into something that we do support?

So I completely understand people's frustration about wanting quick decisions. I want that too. But similarly we can't rush things when there are processes that were initiated.

It's going to produce a result. That's our opportunity to make a good decision. And there are a couple of principles that will underline that decision. And in fact, all about the state redevelopment decisions, which is our interest is more social and affordable housing.

So we will not be supporting any process going forward that does not deliver a substantial uplift in the number of social and affordable housing. Every day I ask the Department of Communities and Justice what is happening with the waiting list. There are 100,000 people waiting for social and affordable housing. Thousands and thousands of those people are children. We know that those people are sleeping in cars, in tents, in caravans. We need more social housing. We have to deliver projects that deliver more dwellings. And the voice of people on the waiting list is a really important voice not to forget. So that is a core principle. We want more. Excellent.

Another principle is we want modern homes, homes and modern amenity, not shit boxes. That are too cold or mouldy or don't have disability access. So we want modern homes for people to live in, homes that deliver dignity to people.

We don't want to sell government land and we won't sell government land as part of these projects. That is not what any of these renewal projects will result in.

Any tenant who is relocated as part of any redevelopment will have a right to return to the development to the new site. So there will be an automatic guaranteed right of return to anyone who is temporarily moved as a result of redevelopment and any relocations.

Temporary relocations will occur in the local area.

And we reactivating the Charter on estate renewal that was developed in 2016 by the Tenants Union and Shelter and city futures at UNSW, which is a really good document that talks about delivering control and autonomy and agency and voice.

So those are principles that apply to all potential state redevelopments that the State Government will undertake. Exactly how that plays out site by site, as I said, take a long time to go through all of that.

And specifically on Waterloo South, those principles will underpin the decision that we're keen to make as soon as we can in about a month we will have the opportunity to look at where the proposals are up to and then make some decisions about how to apply those principles to that project.

Question: (41.21)

So it's been reported that last year the New South Wales Labor conference unanimously passed a resolution committing the incoming State Government to, amongst other things, introducing legislation that prohibits the privatization of any and all public housing in New South Wales, including the outsourcing of public housing to third party providers, legislated and enforceable communities sorry commitments to expanding the amount of public housing in the inner city as a proportion of total housing stock.

So my simple yes or no question to the Housing Minister is do you consider the 2022 public housing conference motion to be the policy of the New South Wales Labor Government?

Minister Rose Jackson: (42:19)

Yes, I do. And we're working on the legislative process. I mean, as I always said, I'm actually just keen to get started. And so that's kind of what we're doing. The legislative process, particularly in a minority parliament, is unfortunately slow.

There's a lot of bills lining up that we're working through, including a range of rental reform that is a top priority for the government. So ending no grounds evictions, allowing pets in rentals, establishing an affordable rental bond scheme, all of that work is winding up on the legislative agenda. I've always said my priorities just to get started on housing, and there's a lot that we can do without legislation and to me that's a key priority.

Hopefully we'll have the HAFF coming online in July. Fingers crossed. We need to be ready to get our 16,000 homes into the HAFF process. That's a huge piece of work that we're massively prioritising. We don't need legislation to need to do that. We need action from government. Top priority of mine, a lot of the work that we can do just building more social housing stock, getting the maintenance contracts redone in public housing, all of that can be done without legislation.

And we're doing that and we're getting that done right now. The stuff that needs legislation, rental reform, that's top of the legislative priority list. A lot of the good stuff we can do in public housing, we're just getting on with doing it and we're going to focus on that because that's the urgency. But we will get to legislative reform when the legislative timetable allows for that.

[The above is based on a meeting transcript of comments made at the REDWatch meeting of 5 June 2023. It should be checked against the audio prior to wider use. REDWatch acknowledges the City of Sydney Council for its assistance with a transcript of the meeting.]