REDwatch spokesman Geoff Turnbull facing a lot of reading in the Waterloo Metro project. Photo: Irina Dunn

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By Irina Dunn

After consulting multiple stakeholders and government agencies for two years the State government presented their plans for a massive $20 billion makeover of Waterloo Metro Quarter to a group of local resident and community activists. Representatives from both UrbanGrowth NSW and Sydney Metro (Transport for NSW) visited the Factory Community Centre in Waterloo on 6 December as guests of the community organisation REDWatch to present their proposals for the block to be built over the new metro station at Waterloo, where construction is well under way. The site is bounded by Botany Road, and Cope, Wellington and Raglan Streets.

You’d need a PhD and / or infinite patience to work your way through the documentation provided by for the Waterloo Metro Quarter proposals.

“The exercise that UrbanGrowth and Sydney Metro have been through over the last 24 months has been to take the planning controls away from the City of Sydney and place them in the state government structure. The studies that have been undertaken are basically there to introduce new planning controls,” says Geoff Turnbull, a spokesman for the REDwatch community organisation.

The State is proposing two controversial changes in the new masterplan.  The first will increase building heights from three to 29 storeys, allowing for high rise development in the precinct. The second will increase densities in the area by more than 300 percent, increasing maximum floor space ratios from 1.75:1 to 6.1:1.

Under the new plans, the government will deem the site to be a State Significant Development (SSD) proposal, allowing for three residential towers of 23, 25 and 29 storeys with a three-storey non-residential base.

There is a provision for 10% of the site or 70 of the 700 proposed home units to be set aside for public housing (also called social housing), and this would probably be given over to a community housing provider to run.

Turnbull explains: “Social housing is given on the basis of need, so that means women escaping domestic violence, people coming out of other family breakdowns, or with mental health issues, really the most marginalised in the community, and there is a move to get homeless people off the street into social housing, largely people on pensions”.

There is also a provision for up to 10% of affordable housing in the residential sections. The affordable housing provision is contentious because it runs out after 10 years, and after that the owner of the building, the developer or whoever, can ask the affordable housing tenants to leave and then sell their units.

Affordable housing is for low-paid workers who can’t afford to live in the city because of the high rents. Affordable housing normally has three tiers: one is just above public housing, and the top end has a household income of about $100,000. That mix of incomes makes the housing viable to run.

Work on the underground hole and station “box” is proceeding apace, so it will not be long before the developer for the over-station development will be selected. If you are interested in making a submission, it is time to