Housing activists occupy Glebe public housing slated for demolition

June 8, 2023
Public housing tenent and activists speaking outside the estate slated for demolition. from left: Wiradjuri person Carolyn Ienna, Rachel Evans and Kristin O'Connell. Photos: Pip Hinman

Wiradjuri person Carolyn Ienna is one of just two remaining public housing tenants in the 17-unit block at Wentworth Park Road, Glebe, and they don’t want to be forced out. Ienna has lived in the 35-year-old housing commission block, near Blackwattle Bay, for 30 years.

Ienna and Action for Public Housing (APH) protested the New South Wales government’s Land and Housing Corporation’s plan on June 7.

Public housing activists laid out their arguments at a media conference about why they oppose the new Labor government’s plans to replace the block with private apartments.

APH spokesperson Rachel Evans said Labor should not adopt the former Coalition government’s policy.

“At least 120,000 people are homeless every night, yet [Premier Chris] Minns plans to demolish 82 Wentworth Park Road. Meanwhile, people sleep rough across the road.”

In opposition, Labor pledged to end the sell-off of public housing. “Just months after being sworn in the minority government is breaking that promise in Glebe and Waterloo,” Evans said.

Evans said the redevelopment plan for nearby Blackwattle Bay does not include any public housing.

Ienna said residents “have been bullied into leaving”. “The government left homes vacant for months before the redevelopment was announced … We have loved living in this area but … we are being pushed out of our homes because other, wealthier, people want to live here.

“It wouldn’t take much for the government to fix up our homes. Many apartments have new floors and paint, and fire safety upgrades were done two years ago. Structurally, the building is sound,” they said.

Waterloo public housing activist Karyn Brown sent a support message urging Labor to “stop demolishing public housing, and build more instead”. She said: “Rapacious developers will not deliver housing for the people; profit is their only aim.”

Ian Stephenson, from The Glebe Society and Hands Off Glebe, said the destruction and rebuilding of Wentworth Park Road was a “complete waste of money”.

“It is costing at least $22 million for that project, while it would cost only around $4 million to refit and refurbish this block.”

Antipoverty Centre co-coordinator Kristin O'Connell spoke about the crisis resulting from housing being treated as a commodity. “We are in this housing crisis because of privatisation.”

University of Sydney education officer Ishbel Dunsmore said student housing is in crisis and students cannot afford rental accommodation. “University colleges and housing companies are private operations, totally over-priced, as well as [being] unsafe — especially for women.

“The onus is on the government to provide affordable housing for students and all who need it,” Dunsmore said.

Later that day, activists occupied an apartment, adjacent to Ienna’s. Evans told Green Left the housing protesters received “heaps of community support”.

The occupation’s demands are: No to the privatisation of 82 Wentworth Park Road and no demolition; and the empty dwellings be immediately offered to those on the public housing waiting list.

The Sydney City Council has still not approved the development application to demolish and rebuild Wentworth Park Road. Pressure is now mounting from the community for the council to block approval for this disastrous project.

The University of Sydney Student Representative Council passed a motion of support for the housing occupation on June 7.

Video: MUA Sydney branch organiser Shane Reside: “Public housing occupation is inspiring”. Green Left Extras.

Video: Antipoverty Centre spokesperson: “Why demolish public housing in a housing crisis?” Green Left Extras.

Video: “We must continue the fight for public housing”. Green Left Extras.

Video: Pride in Protest support housing occupation: “LGBTIQ people twice as likely to be homeless”. Green Left Extras.

[An “End the Housing Crisis” rally is being held on June 17 at 1pm at Sydney Town Hall, hosted by Action of Public Housing.]

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