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Trendy Redfern - but for whom?

With the announcement of the Aldi discount store chain wanting to open in Danks Street area fear spread that it might not receive planning approval. Local resident activists, community groups and community centres advocates went out of their way to ensure that the local support for the store was heard. The store, due to open soon, received support for its application in forms of letters and strong petition of 800 plus local residents. But what was all the fuss about? asks Michael Shreenan in the February 2011 issue of the Soluth Sydney Herald.

At the time Local and National studies showed that food insecurity was high in the area. The insecurity was being heightened by the duopolies that dominated the local grocery market.   The overwhelming welcome of Aldi’s opening in the area was driven by the hope that it would bring some relief to the concerns about growing grocery prices; however will ALDI be enough to bring balance to the strong tide of "yuppification" of local businesses?  

In recent times in an attempt to re-brand the area with the new Redfern smile, we have seen large investment in Redfern Street area; the opening of expensive cafes, small bars, art galleries, plus Woolworths, and a new Coles store. 

Most of the new more affluent residents in the area may welcome the changes. However we must be cautious of the hidden cost and damage this could potentially do to the long term social housing residents of the area, who in the main are barely surviving on $245 a week, and potentially can no longer afford what currently is on offer in Redfern Street. In addition there those living on a median wage, who are not dependent on welfare but under sever housing stress due to higher rents, costly energy bills, and traveling costs, that  are struggling to make ends meet. 

When the Redfern Brand was launched the late Trevor Davies asked the question “Is Redfern the new Paddington..? Will we lose the working class character the Redfern has had for decades?”

The answer given was that we wouldn’t, however the tide is noticeable slowly creeping in and a walk along Redfern Street will show that the characters occupying the cafes and new small bars are not the same people of times gone by. Crime is on the decrease, more outsiders are willing to stop by rather than drive by, or even now contemplate living here.  The change should be welcomed and embraced, but let us not forget the locals who have called Redfern and Waterloo home for their life time. 

The challenge for Government and the business community alike is to ensure that there is opportunity for businesses to open up in the area and that all consumers continue to have choice, one which is competitive and keeps prices low. 

If we do not, we run the risk of driving out of town those who give our area its character and charm out of town; not because they don’t want to be here, but because they can’t afford to. Poverty will not be solved by dilution of the demographics, or by a makeover of street scape with a few new fancy bars and art galleries.

If the Government’s Built Environment Plan 2 doesn’t drive out locals through the planned reduction of social housing stock, will the yuppification of local business drive out the locals? What can be achieved to ensure balance and affordability?

Source: South Sydney Herald February 2012