Forum discusses plans to defend Sydney public housing

Howard Byrnes, Emily Bullock and Alistair Sisson at a public housing forum in Sydney on March 16. Photo: James Wyner

Glebe public housing resident Emily Bullock told a public forum, organised by Green Left on March 16, that while the homes could do with some repairs, they must not be allowed to be bulldozed by the state government.

In November, the New South Wales government sent public housing residents in Glebe and Eveleigh a letter informing them that their homes are to be demolished.

“They are proposing to demolish our public homes then rebuild a mix of social and private — 30% of which will be ‘social’ and 70% private,” said Bullock, who is secretary of Hands Off Glebe.

“But all this public land will go to private companies and these social housing providers, well, they say they are ‘not-for-profit’, but we don’t know them. We don’t know how secure our homes will be with them.”’

Bullock said the proposed demolition “will not help anyone on the public housing waiting list. There are families waiting 10–15 years for a home.”

Alistair Sisson, researcher and activist with the Waterloo Public Housing Action Group, the demolition of public housing estates has been happening since the early 2000s in NSW in Bonnyrigg and Claymore.

When the government privatises public housing estates, more private residences and less social housing is built, he said. “We have a decrease in housing stock and, now, 50-60 thousand people are on the waiting list for public-social housing.”

Howard Byrnes, a Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union workplace delegate and member of the union’s committee of management, spoke about the unions's green ban against the destruction of the Willow Grove heritage site in Parramatta.

Andrew Chuter, from Friends of Erskineville, spoke about the campaign to save Eveleigh public housing. All agreed that the fight must not only be about stopping the demolitions, but also to extend public housing. Speakers and residents noted the interest among youth in this justice campaign and resolved to work together on next steps.

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