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Public Housing Sell-Off

REDFERN-WATERLOO: The Redfern Waterloo Authority released its blueprint plan for the future of public housing land in Redfern and Waterloo. After several years in development, The Draft Built Environment Plan 2 was made available for public comment reports South Sydney Herald in April 2011.
BE2 has received a lukewarm response from long-term residents and has been met with a mixture of uncertainty and anger.

Local resident activists have lashed out at claims of a “successful” and “extensive” consultation process during the four weeks of the non-statutory exhibition.

“The consultation was rushed through. How do they expect local residents to get their heads round a fairly complex proposal which was debated for years within government and expect local people to be able to give informed feedback within four weeks? It is nothing but a joke,” said Anita Faber. “The process was nothing short of window dressing to justify a pre-planned desired outcome. It was clear to all that they are banking on the communities’ apathy and lack of understanding planning gobbledygook to quickly drive through their own political agenda.”

The plan which will see low-rise public housing turned into a mini Meriton-type complex with the population of the area potentially increasing by 50 per cent. This will be achieved through the sale of public land for private development at the cost of the reduction of public housing stock by 700 units. This happens at a time when the current demand for public housing is sitting at 43,000 applicants, some of which have been waiting for up to 10 years.

Concerns voiced have ranged fromthe economic viability of the proposal, the strains that naturally come with an increased population in an already highly dense area, the likelihood of an increase in traffic congestion, the possible destruction of rich and strong historical social support networks, handover of government housing to community providers, creation of concrete jungles, and questions about how service provision will meet the needs of the new residents when they struggle to meet current needs.

The planned reduction of social housing will be replaced with 700 affordable housing units and additional unnumbered private dwellings. “Our current limited green spaces will be gone and will not be there again. There is a need for affordable housing but there is a price we have to pay for that,” said long-term activist Diana Whitworth.

Mr Roy Wakelin-King, CEO of the RWA, answered the concerns raised by REDWatch about the approach being taken. He wrote: “The assertion that the consultation process is inadequate and/or flawed is clearly not agreed. I am of the view that the commitment to gathering and understanding community views displayed by both the RWA and Housing NSW has been of a high standard and that the implementation of the consultation process has been done in a professional manner.”

This answer angered some local residents who feel that Mr Wakelin-King’s defensive response is typical of the Authority’s attitude towards residents who dare question the way government conducts its consultations. “We’re referred to as a noisy minority,” said resident activist, Ross Smith.

REDWatch spokesperson, Mr Geoff Turnbull, said: “Even if the plan contained all the information required and the consultation process was flawless, a month’s exhibition is not sufficient time for a diverse community to gain an understanding of what is proposed and to make a considered response.”

One local welfare worker, who didn’t want to be named, said: “Built Form Renewal, in its many disguises, is a worldwide phenomena that claims to be beneficial but actually drives up the costs of the local housing market to attract wealthier people to the city fringes and drive out existing working class residents. If they were truly committed to the community renewal, they would work with the existing residents and sort out the basic day-to-day needs. “The current problems of poorly maintained properties which have been starved of decent government investment; poor customer service and lack of any effective place-based management have exacerbated their problems. Improved quality in service delivery and adequate tenancy support to existing residents would be far more cost effective in the long term instead of importing new people to dilute the statistics. If you accept that density increase is inevitable, it should happen to reduce the waiting list of our most vulnerable seeking housing; the social mix argument is a red herring as Redfern Waterloo already has a rich social mix.

“One of the major concerns is the lack of independent advocacy to assist and resource residents through this process; many respected NGOs in the area are worried about speaking out in case it affects their funding.”

For more information and to view feedback on BE2 visit the REDWatch website:

Source: South Sydney Herald April 2011 -