By Christopher Harris
Local politicians have joined the opposition to NSW Government’s plan to sell public housing in Millers Point to fund a Housing NSW property shortfall and maintenance backlog.
The significance of the Millers Point housing was highlighted by Lord Mayor Clover Moore last Friday as she opened Sue Rawlinson’s exhibition that documents the plaques of protests and simple yellow ribbons, which now hang in residents’ homes in the suburbs.
The Lord Mayor reiterated her support for low income housing in the CBD.
“We’re funding Redfern Legal Centre to assist residents in their fight,” she said.
It is understood the mayor has donated $100,000 to assist the community in pursuing legal avenues to combat forced eviction notices, which were delivered to residents last March.
The government has maintained that the relocation of Housing NSW tenants is necessary because of the high maintenance costs of the properties.
“I recognise some tenants have lived in public housing in Millers Point for decades, and moving to a new location may be difficult. This decision was not taken lightly, but it is the right decision in the interest of a sustainable, fair social housing system which currently has more than 57,000 families on the waiting list,” said NSW Minister for Planning Pru Goward.
Member of the Save Millers Point Community group Wendy Ford believes the Government’s action is about short-term revenue raising and could affect more people than Millers Point.
“I think its quite strange when [Pru Goward] set up a commission to look into public housing across the state, she goes and announces before this commission has finished, that she’s going to sell these houses off.”
Last year Housing NSW sold 1386 houses and built 536.
Minister for Housing Gabrielle Upton did not respond to questions but referred them to a departmental spokesperson, who said the sell-off is more equitable.
“For each Millers Point precinct property sold, the government can build three modern, purpose-built houses which are better suited to social housing.”
The Shadow Minister for Housing, Sophie Cotsis, doesn’t believe there is any provision for new property acquisition.
“When you subtract how many they’ve built from how many they’ve sold, we’ve got about 800 less houses. The housing portfolio is in crisis. They’ve had three ministers since August last year. It is very clear there has been no planning and no strategy from Government.”
“In the last budget that Labor handed down in 2010, the budget for building housing was $240 million. In 2014 its $120 million; that budget has been halved. Its not sustainable,” Ms Cotsis said.
In a NSW Government inquiry into social, public and affordable housing in May, Anne Skewes, Deputy Director General of NSW Land and Housing Corporation was unclear about how many new houses the sale proceeds would afford.
“[The sale] is money back to the Land and Housing Corporation to support the maintenance backlog and also to support new supply.”
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich believes the Government’s move equates to an act of social cleansing, motivated by the development of the nearby casino.
“The government changed the rules to allow fast-tracking of a second casino, preventing open tenders and consideration of public benefit. Many people have identified that badly-maintained social housing is not the right image to attract big spending gamblers to a new casino and hotel.”
Mr Greenwich has pledged his continued support to retain inner city public housing.