Calls grow for public housing to be saved, more built

July 20, 2023
Photo: Action for Public Housing/Facebook

Action for Public Housing (APH)’s forum on July 18 attracted more than 100 people in person and on-line to discuss alternatives to the demolition of public housing.

Dr Hannes Frykholm from the School of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney gave international examples of how public housing had been renovated. He referred to a housing complex in Bordeaux, France, which had been updated under the principle of “transformation, instead of demolition”.

Ian Stephenson, from Hands Off Glebe and the Glebe Society, told how, in 1974, the Gough Whitlam Labor government had acquired the Glebe Estate and refurbished it as quality public housing.

Emily Vallentine, also from Hands of Glebe, said Australia had a “strong and popular public housing history”. She criticised New South Wales Labor for wanting “to continue the atrocious housing policies of the Coalition government”. “We will lose our community if this happens.”

She noted how the campaign had saved one of the estates at Franklyn Street, Glebe, which had been slated for demolition, and said residents will continue to fight to defend the Wentworth Park Road complex in Glebe.

Hector Abrahams, the architect for the Wentworth Park Road Estate, outlined an alternative plan to the proposal to demolish and re-build the block. His plan uses land at the rear of the property to construct additional units, with all necessary facilities, for cheaper price than the government’s demolition proposal.

Simon Robinson and Steve Mintern from Office Architects in Naarm/Melbourne spoke about their Retain/Repair/Reinvest model, on which their proposals to rebuild public housing estates at Ascot Vale and Barak Beacon in Port Melbourne are based.

Their plan, which would mean carrying out work in stages, along the principle of “refurbishment, not demolition or relocation”, would save tens of millions of dollars, they said. However, the Victorian government is proceeding to demolish the estates, replacing public housing with non-government owned “social and affordable housing”.

Following a lively discussion, everyone agreed to step up the campaign to stop public housing from being demolished and to support proposals to renovate rather than destroy.

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