Log in

Forgot your password?
You are here: Home / UrbanGrowth, SMDA & RWA Plans & Activities / Waterloo Public Housing & Metro Station Redevelopment / LAHC post zoning planning. / Waterloo South to proceed with new targets - updated REDWatch response

Waterloo South to proceed with new targets - updated REDWatch response

Below is an updated REDWatch response to the announcement of new social and affordable housing targets for Waterloo South announced publicly on 21 August 2023. Some changes have been made to the initial response to reference additional material and responses as well as to cover comments made at today's media conference.

In a letter distributed to Waterloo Estate tenants on Saturday 19 August, Housing Minister Rose Jackson advised tenants that the Waterloo South LAHC redevelopment would now see 30% social and 20% affordable housing delivered. In addition a minimum of 15% of these kinds of housing would be dedicated to Aboriginal people. The relocations process has been delayed until mid-2024 with six months’ notice still being given for those initially required to move. The letter provided no details of how the government will fund the changes.

It is welcomed that the Minister has shown respect for the public housing community by letter boxing tenants prior to the media announcement on Monday 21 August 2023. This is a major change in how tenants are treated as previously tenants often learnt of announcements from the media.

In effect, the new Government has forced the delivery of the 30% social housing units that has been part of LAHC’s long running target. LAHC said it could not meet this in Waterloo as it was also having to fund affordable housing from the redevelopment. This increase however only delivers an extra 53 public housing units over the earlier proposal. A further 59 units could have been added if the 30% target was based on the Gross Floor Area (GFA) rather than the number of front doors / units. This is because social housing units are proposed to be smaller than the private units.

While the increase proposed is a minimum and welcome, this minimal increase in social housing will do little to impact the huge shortage of public and social housing and will not speed up waiting times for those on the waiting list. The opportunity for government to directly fund increased public / social housing has been missed and they still need to come up with a policy that will deliver more social housing units from such redevelopments.

The problem of sticking rigidly to the 30% for social housing becomes more apparent if the figure is applied to the Waterloo high-rises where LAHC has said it expects a further 3,000 units when that area is rezoned. This would provide only 900 social housing homes where there are currently 1,263, i.e. a loss of 363 social housing units as opposed to an increase in Waterloo South of 151. To achieve 30% in the Waterloo Central and North Precincts density would have to be 40% higher than in Waterloo South or the model has to change with extra funding for the additional social housing or a lower cost refurbishment option. It will be several years before we see how the government address this problem.

The big win is in affordable housing where there is an increase from the initial 227 units (7% of GFA)  to 600 units (20% of units). Worryingly at the media conference Minister Jackson could not confirm that the affordable housing would be in perpetuity. This remains to be finalised with the prospective developer. This appears to be a step backwards and raises the possibility that some stock may be a percentage off market prices and may be only affordable housing for a limited period rather than affordable based on income and remaining affordable in perpetuity. This is a work in progress.

Affordable housing is either based on a percentage off market or based on % of income within government defined tiers, so it is a much cheaper form of housing to fund and run because it has better rent income. It is unlikely many on the social housing waiting list will qualify for affordable housing which is normally aimed at what is described as “key workers”.

Aboriginal Housing is winner with the Government committing to 15% of both social and affordable housing being for Aboriginal people. The current Aboriginal occupancy of Waterloo was said to be 12-13% and the rezoning said that the level should not fall below the levels of occupancy on 1 January 2021. Aboriginal Affordable Housing was earlier set at 10% of the affordable housing and only delivered 23 units. The increase to 15% of an increased base now sees an extra 67 units delivered – which is about the size of another Pemulwuy project.

Finally the Minister confirmed at the media conference that the 50% social and affordable were a minimum and left open the door for further change depending on the developer and other initiatives. She also indicated that the private residential part of the site would be sold to the developer consortium.  Also at the media conference Ron Hoenig argued that the estate needed to be redeveloped to provide appropriate standard housing for public housing tenants.

The figures used in this post are based on an analysis of the numbers for different tenure types in Waterloo South. The figures used are the minimum figures from the rezoning, and ministerial announcements on 4 November 2022 and 21 August 2023. While all care has been taken it is possible the spreadsheet contains errors so please check yourself and advise if any errors are found. At the media conference today the Housing Minister dismissed the suggestion that there would only be a 53 unit increase in social housing. These figures substantiate the basis for that calculation – here you can see the REDWatch calculations based on August 2023 increase in social and affordable housing.

You can see the Waterloo Redevelopment letter to tenants 19 Aug 2023 on the REDWatch website and the subsequent media release is at Waterloo South social and affordable housing boosted to 50%.

You can see the initial media article from SMH at Waterloo estate plan rejigged to accommodate more social housing and ABC’s Hundreds of extra public, affordable homes close to Sydney CBD proposed under revised Waterloo Estate redevelopment plan - ABC News. Local media responses have included the Hub’s Dismay over planned Waterloo public housing demolition amid housing crisis and SSH’s on line article Waterloo South to proceed with 50 per cent social and affordable housing - the print version of the SSH will include responses from a range of different groups to the announcement.

You can also see a media releases by Shelter NSW - Waterloo South – good, but still time for a better deal for social housing and to raise the bar on what Government can deliver , Counterpoint Community Services on the Waterloo Increase  and why Action for Public Housing condemns Waterloo decision

Update from 4th September 2023

As we pointed out after the announcement, the approach proposed does not address the desperate need for an increase in public / social housing stock. If the 30% social housing formula in the announcement was applied across the entire Waterloo Estate it would lead to an actual loss of social housing stock. You can see our figures at REDWatch calculations based on August 2023 increase in social and affordable housing. The challenge for the Government is to come up with a plan and the funding to increase the public / social housing stock. The current plan for 30% social housing out of such redevelopments will not do this.

Not all the social housing problems will be solved through Waterloo. Firstly because a process was already underway and secondly because it is early in the term of a new government. We need to see changes to the estate redevelopment approach or government building public / social housing on surplus public land if we are to see the increase needed. Improvements in Waterloo will come from either innovative bids from the tenderers or any provisions that LAHC enter into with the developers that allows for an increase in social or affordable housing if additional funds from the Federal or State Governments become available during the long construction period.

The significant uplift in affordable housing is important, it mirrors the approach in the UK and is at the top of large Australian estate redevelopment projects with a headline 50% combined social and affordable housing. Government, developers and community however need to find ways to make it all exist in perpetuity and to be based on income, not a discount off market rent. Limited life affordable housing creates a future affordable housing cliff if there are not new properties continually coming on stream. We are experiencing this currently with federal NRAS properties that can now be sold or rented at market rates. Understandably Community Housing Providers (CHPs) have welcomed the increase in social and affordable housing in Waterloo South as it is more stock for them to manage.

Aboriginal Housing was a big winner with 15% of the social and affordable housing now dedicated to Aboriginal people, probably through an Aboriginal CHP. The announcement delivers 7.5% of the total redevelopment, where the original ask for Aboriginal social and affordable housing in Redfern Waterloo was 10% of the housing on all government owned land in the Redfern Waterloo area to ensure a long term viable community in the area. If 10% cannot be delivered on public housing land, the prospects are not good for reaching the level of housing needed for the Aboriginal community in the area on current non-housing sites like North Eveleigh.

A few days after the announcement a YouTube video was posted by the Member for Heffron, Ron Hoenig that intercuts speeches from the Waterloo South announcement with historical ‘A Current Affair’ footage. That post has angered many residents and NGOs, some of whom thought the MP had told them the ALP was planning to stop the redevelopment.

The video includes footage from Poet’s Corner in Redfern, not Waterloo, and is used to support Mr Hoenig’s contention that tenants are living in squalor so the area needs to be redeveloped. Understandably many tenants enjoy their homes. Karyn Brown, a tenant in Waterloo South, has spoken out about this demonising of tenants and their homes.

Mr Hoenig has long campaigned around public housing maintenance issues and used ‘A Current Affair’ to publicise stories to get action by LAHC and DCJ Housing. Many tenants and advocates have argued that the lack of proper maintenance by LAHC has created the very problems that are now being used to support a tear down and rebuild approach rather than a repair and maintain approach.

The new Government will need to lift its maintenance game, both to deliver a decent quality of life for tenants in existing public housing, but also to address the perception that demolition from maintenance neglect drives LAHC’s estate renewal in places like Waterloo.

At the REDWatch meeting on 7th September will LAHC will provide further detail to the community about its revised proposal - Waterloo Public Housing Update – 6pm Thurs 7 September 2023