Waterloo Estate’s low rise buildings ready to go. Photo: Sebastian Reategui

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By John Moyle

The end of the Waterloo Estate is one giant step closer with the recent release of a new report by the state agency Communities Plus titled “Waterloo Redevelopment Options”.

The paper outlines, without detail, three options for the development’s layout and scale but not its density. This will be revealed when the 3D modelling goes on display.

“The tenants haven’t seen the 3D models yet so they don’t have any idea of what the density is, and it is that density that is of concern for the City of Sydney and Mayor Clover Moore,” Jeff Turnbull, co-spokesperson REDwatch said.

In her strongest statement about the project yet, Clover Moore said in reference to the possible density of 6,500 to 7,200 dwellings “This is a planning disaster and a significant threat to Sydney’s future economic growth and liveability.”

To be staged over 20 years, the redevelopment plan for Waterloo is expected to begin next year starting with the three to four level buildings known as walk-ups at the southern end of the estate along Cope and McEvoy Streets.

Evelyn Morris is a representative for the Waterloo Estate’s People’s Precinct that encompasses Wellington and Cope Streets. The People’s Precinct is expected to be in the second wave of development.

“Where I live in Cooper Street is three to five years off but the other end of Wellington Street is likely to be the first block within one to three years,” Evelyn Morris said.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the community.”

Jeff Turnbull agrees saying: “At the present I would say that people in the one to three year area have increased anxiety and that this has been reflected in calls to FACS.”

Another major concern about the plans is that all three options state there will be “at least 5% affordable housing’ when the project is completed. The community has been calling for a much higher proportion.

“When we were doing the redevelopment group we didn’t think that the split was fair and it was supposed to be 30 per cent social and we asked for up to 15 per cent affordable and the rest private, but it doesn’t look like this is the way it has gone,” Ms Morris said.

The lowering of the affordable housing split also concerns Jeff Turnbull who said “The five per cent affordable housing is of particular concern and one of the things that came out of the visioning was a call for five per cent Aboriginal affordable housing and five per cent normal affordable housing.”

Mr Turnbull’s concerns reflect many in the wider Waterloo/Redfern area that the Aboriginal community is being socially engineered out of the suburbs.

“The argument for more Aboriginal housing is that you have a community that has been hollowed out because of gentrification and a lot of Aboriginal people who have grown up here in public housing and associate themselves with Redfern have had to move out because they can’t afford to live here,” Mr Turnbull said.

As someone who has lived on her present apartment for 19 years Evelyn Morris speaks for the community when she said “This whole thing has shattered a community – this is a living breathing community and this is a big community, very multi-cultural and diverse, and a lot of people are frightened because not enough information came through in the early stages.”

It looks like the battle for Waterloo has just begun.