There has been a lot of media attention this week about a controversial move by the City to evict squatters who have taken up residence in an empty building in Redfern. The issue is summed up well by this article in the Inner West Courier, which quotes both myself and fellow Greens Councillor Chris Harris voicing our opposition to the plans.
Clr Harris and I have both been in discussion with the squatters, who seem very reasonable and have agreed to leave if the City is genuinely planning to put the building to other uses. While it may be too late for this group the issues raised by this case are worth giving some consideration.
While the City aims to be as efficient with it’s use of buildings as possible, and has a good track record on allowing temporarily empty buildings to be used as artists studios and the like I think there is more that can be done, particularly in the field of housing the hundreds of homeless people who sleep rough in the City every night. When Council resumes next year I will investigate the possibility of making it easier to grant caretaker permits to squatters. This will mean that these buildings are put to good use housing those who otherwise have no home but will ensure those who occupy them are responsible for keeping the buildings in good order. Hopefully we will be able to extract some sort of positive outcome from this difficult situation.