The planning controls for the ‘Glebe Affordable Housing Project’ were presented to Council last Monday night. Under the guise of providing affordable housing this project will sell off public land and cram hundreds more units into the streets of Glebe.
I have many times spoken out against this project and below is the speech I gave to Council, setting out my reasoning for this.
Calling the development an Affordable Housing Project is a real misnomer as less than a quarter of the housing will be new Affordable Housing, while public housing increases by a meagre 19 units, bringing the total to just under half the planned dwellings.
Selling off half the estate under the mantra of “social mix” is really just a verbal piece of trickery to justify the ongoing plans by Housing NSW (HNSW) to divest itself of housing over the next 15 years by transferring existing units to community housing providers or selling the land to the private market – this at a time when over 43,300 people are on the waiting list desperate for affordable social housing.
Social mix is an unproven dogma that is contested among academics and is in its detail greatly insulting to the majority of housing department tenants who are now faced with uncertainty about the future of their tenancies and their landlords.
In the background papers on this item it is claimed on page 9, point 14 (c), that the proposal would:
“improve tenant satisfaction, economic participation and educational opportunities for social housing tenants through integration of affordable and market housing into the development and connecting the development with the surrounding community.”
I would challenge this claim on every point and ask how social mix will change economic participation and educational opportunities for the social housing residents who will move into the new development. It is more likely to create pockets of inequality as private developments come with indoor pools and gyms which will be denied to the public housing section.
Even more insulting is the claim that it would connect social housing residents with the surrounding community as if they weren’t already a part of the community in Glebe.
The whole mantra of social mix is an insult to all the housing NSW residents who have successful tenancies, do not cause trouble and do not need to be integrated into a community they are already part of.
Rather this idea of social mix destroys existing communities, moving residents out of their homes and into new dwellings which they may or may not prefer. The policy is to make only 2 offers to residents who are being relocated and often the new unit is far from the same standard as what the tenants already have.
We must remember that many of these residents have been in the estate for more than 30 years and losing their homes is a hugely stressful experience for them.
It is also worth noting that only around 10% of residents return to these new developments as the stress of moving is just too much for many people who after a few years are just starting to put down roots in their new areas.
I’ve got no problem with building better housing for public housing tenants nor for the creation of more affordable housing but when we look across the City at HNSW larger plans what we are seeing is a decline in public housing in the name of affordable housing which is a very poor outcome for both the very poor and those on low incomes.
The break up on this development should be more public and affordable housing not more private housing as there are plenty of sites that can supply private market properties such as Harold Park and the Carlton brewery site.
Sadly what is happening as the inner city becomes more and more gentrified is that social housing estates are being treated as social eyesores and the regeneration of housing estates is being driven by factors more to do with money and government targets than the true needs of the existing HNSW residents.
At no time during this process were HNSW residents consulted on what they would like to happen to the estate. Rather they have been treated like property with no input into their fate or the fate of what have been their homes for many years.
Finally I am very concerned that HNSW will use the City of Sydney’s 2030 target of 7.5% public housing as a justification for lowering the number of public housing units in the area from its current position of 10.4%. I believe this will not be in the spirit of what the City was hoping for with its affordable housing plan.
I believe that in supporting these changes we will be giving tacit support to HNSW’s land sell off and providing the planning controls that will make it happen. Thus I cannot support this project.