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REDWatch Analysis on Millers Point

REDWatch has kept its members and supporters up to date through its email lists. Below we have drawn some of the material from these emails to provide an overview for a wider grouping of REDWatch's concerns.

A summary of some of the issues arising from the Millers Point announcement:

Social Impact Assessment - LAHC undertook that the Social Impact Assessment would be shown to tenants before any decisions were made. The Millers Point Social Impact Assessment was released after the announcement along with the Government response Government response to Millers Point SIA. LAHC have a long history of convincing communities that this time it will be different and they will keep their word! LAHC has a fundamental conflict and should not have carriage of community engagement with their own tenants around redevelopment issues.

The Government response – this document is a worry. For example the LAHC in Redfern argued under social mix for affordable housing in the redevelopment mix but in the response on Millers Point under Goward they are saying they have no interest in affordable or aged housing. The response is quite short and should be read by anyone wanting to understand why the Social Impact recommendations have not been acted upon – see also O'Farrell government ignored consultants' advice on plan to sell public housing at Millers Points and Battle for lost when Goward took control.

Heritage and Maintenance - There is an ongoing issue that if LAHC do not do in time maintenance then problems grow and cost much more especially in heritage properties. There is an element also that tenants believe that a number of things that LAHC said needed to be done were excessive and there to expand the cost of bring houses to standard. Heritage houses are also expensive to maintain but not everything disposed of will be heritage properties. Interesting the heritage listing for Millers Point includes the people that live there and this avenue of appeal is being considered.

Sirius building -  This building does not have maintenance issues and no one expected it to be sold off as not being suitable. It is ideal for aging in place. Its problem is that it sits on very expensive real estate. The introduction of the principle that public housing should not be in an area where there is strong market demand is worrying. On this basis much of the public housing in the inner-city, eastern suburbs and the north shore could be sold because it could build a greater number of units of housing in a less desirable place (and in most likelihood far from services, hospitals, public transport etc that makes locations desirable!)

The Public Housing Black hole – with LAHC selling off 2.5 housing units a day over the last ten years to pay the bills then it is highly unlikely that the sales will translate into new housing. It is most likely to go the way of previous sales where it contributes to a net reduction of housing stock and pays the bills for running the system. This funding will only go to new housing if there is another source to cover the operating deficit and the maintenance black hole.

The Millers point Media Pack – It has become apparent that the Government had a highly orchestrated approach to the announcement through the use of the Millers Point Announcement Media Pack. LAHC included in the media pack a number of case studies on their perspective on maintenance issues in Millers Point. The document indicates that particular properties were arranged to be specifically opened up for the media to provide footage / visual support for the LAHC case. The document also has a section on relocations which highlights some of LAHC newer properties and case studies of people who have been previously relocated out of the Millers Point area to such lovely places is highlighted. Of particular concern is a section on how much “Subsidy” (my inverted commas not LAHCs) tenants in Millers Point were provided. This included the case study in which it was argued a mother and son received a subsidy of $528,000. You can see the Tenants Union response to this at The truth about 'subsidies' at Millers Point and The Rocks, including TU raising concerns about the privacy of people used in the case studies. The subsidies are shown for other low income areas to highlight the LAHC argument. What is not shown is what the “subsidy”, LAHC say they are paying to other Inner City public housing tenants who like those in Millers Point LAHC would consider to be highly subsidised. This was a well-orchestrated media campaign.  It makes you wonder if LAHC was to roll this out into other inner city areas what might be said about the subsidies in Redfern, Waterloo, Surry Hills or Woolloomooloo and what case studies might be told about people in our communities!

Spreading Myths about Public Housing – Government conveniently forgets that the people in public housing are there because they put them there under a range of different arrangements. Some people that are there were there because they have been workers and paid full rent all the time they were working and are now retired, others are there because they are young and with the multiple issues needed to qualify for access to public housing, others in the case of Millers Point were transferred from Maritime Services Board housing. Some of the material in the media kit and said by the Minister strengthens negative stereotypes about public tenants and plays to peoples ignorance of what public housing is and how it works.

It will take longer to get off the housing waiting list – The tenants to be moved out of Millers Point will be given priority in allocations. The impact will be that 400 people that would have been housed off the waiting list will now not be housed in the next two years because those houses will go to people already in public housing and until the promised houses are built there will be 300 less public housing units for those on the waiting list to get into.

Community and support networks – public tenants like everyone else take time to put down roots and to develop their community support groups. If you have little mobility and have been in an area a long time that is where your support network is. The announcement that everyone would be moved out was not just about the loss of your home but also about the loss of your friendship and support network – the loss of your community. As public tenants made up such a large proportion of the area it is also about the wholesale change of the areas character – a bit like the neutron bomb of the late 1970’s removing all the existing community but leaving the property intact to be occupied by the newcomers.

Solidarity and Campaigning – The announcement marks the first time Government has sold off all the public housing stock in a suburb and argued that housing is in too good an area for public housing. There is a need to support those impacted in Millers Point but also for the community to take up the broader issue so other inner city areas do not get denuded of public housing because it is in too great of demand for private housing. How NGOs and communities respond to this challenge will determine the future of public housing in the Inner City and the NSW more generally. Support for Millers Point tenants was considered crucial at a REDWatch roundtable in April 2013 which examined the implications of the decision for other inner city public housing.

Join the Discussion and address the myths - it is also crucial for people who are supportive of public housing to be involved in the wider media and community discussion about the need for continued public housing in the inner city. There is a need to help the wider community understand how public housing works and who is in public housing given the stereotypes being played to by the Minister. For example does the community understand that the majority of people in public housing are aged pensioners who are not expected to get a job and move out of public housing. Does the wider community understand that when many of these people came into public housing it was intended for those that also worked and that many of the current aged have paid substantial rents during this time.

What others are doing

Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development has announced they will employ Joel Pringle to do some work to assist those working in Millers Point over the next few weeks. In the process of doing this ISRCSD will be asking Joel to make recommendations about what ongoing role ISRCSD and other organisations can play in Millers Point and on its broader implications for inner city public housing. It is proposed Joel will work alongside other groups in the area with minimal duplication. ISRCSD grew out of the campaigns in Redfern Waterloo led by Marg Barry to stop the destruction of that community by the Department of Housing. ISRCSD are now a regional agency covering the LGAs of Sydney Leichhardt Botany and the Eastern Suburbs. Their projects service tenant groups (David Whites TPRS role), Aged and disability Services (HACC), residents groups, community centres and human services interagencies.

Joel has experience in working with public housing tenants when working on the Working From the Ground Up project for Sydney University in South Maroubra and Matraville. He has recently worked for ACOSS and as Campaign Manager for Australians for Affordable Housing. He has worked in some community activities in the inner city where he has been spokesperson for the Lift Redfern Campaign, Chair of the Settlement Neighbourhood Centre and been on the ISRCSD Board.

Further Reading

REDWatch has put some of the key Millers Point documents on its website under Millers Point - ridding expensive suburbs of Public Housing. Shelter NSW have produced a newsletter insert Around the House No.96 - Millers Point supplement and the Tenants Union Blog has also covered the issues especially at The truth about 'subsidies' at Millers Point and The Rocks. You will also find out about media stories on social media at

The latest issue of the South Sydney Herald ran a number of articles on issues related to Millers Point that may be of interest on the issues:

For More Information regarding REDWatch and Millers Point please contact REDWatch on