Lack of maintenance in a public housing estate is posing severe risks to the residents’ health, both physical and mental.
In response to complaints from residents I went to inspect the estate in question in South Coogee with Greens MP David Shoebridge and Mayor of Randwick Murray Matson. We were shocked by what we saw.
There are units and hallways with exposed electrical wires. There are properties where facilities as basic as toilets, showers and stoves are broken and have gone months without repair, leaving elderly and disabled residents to live in appallingly unhygienic conditions. In one particularly concerning case a resident with both physical and psychological disabilities had a toilet that was not working for several months, resulting in them having to use a bucket in its place.
There is rubbish piling up in bins on the nature strip because garbage trucks can’t get access to them in their current locations, leaving it to rot for weeks on end. The situation is so bad that tenants have had to go to the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal or get court orders to have things cleaned up. Or they’ve had to privately pay out from their own meagre incomes to have cleaning done because Housing NSW (HNSW) won’t do its job of keeping things in order.
However these aren’t the most worrying things we saw during the inspection. There is also a massive asbestos contamination risk in at least one building. HNSW carried out tests for asbestos contamination but has so far refused to release the results of these tests.
Whether or not the building is actually contaminated many residents believe it is. This is having a severe negative affect on the mental health of many of them and some are taking extreme measures to protect themselves from what they feel are very serious risks. One resident has gone so far as to cover all of her possessions in plastic sheets, as shown in the photo, and has lived with them untouched like this for years now.
HNSW needs to release the results of these tests immediately. If the buildings are safe to live in there is no reason to hide this fact and having it confirmed would seriously boost resident morale. However if the buildings aren’t safe the residents are at serious risk of contracting fatal illnesses and it is HNSW’s legal and moral responsibility to act on this straight away. Whatever the case they have no excuse for maintaining this secrecy.
David Shoebridge is following the matter up with the Housing Minister but as yet he has received no response. Murray Matson will also be pursuing the matter through Randwick Council. This is a dire situation in which doing nothing is not an acceptable option. We will be following up this matter vigorously through all available channels until we have a resolution.