NSW public housing defenders discuss campaign

November 3, 2021
A protest to defend public housing in Glebe, in January. Photo: Peter Boyle

A Hands off Glebe (HOG) and Action for Public Housing (AFPH) online forum on October 30 discussed how best to defend public housing from the New South Wales government’s plans to sell it off.

Yvonne Weldon, deputy chair of the Sydney Land Council and Mayoral candidate for City of Sydney, said council could do more to house marginalised communities by forcing developers to pay more.

Hannah Middleton from HOG said public housing estates in Waterloo, South Eveleigh and Glebe are slated for demolition. The government also wants to sell individual public homes in Glebe, owned by the Land and Housing Corporation.

Alistair Sisson, from AFPH and a researcher in the geography department at Wollongong University, said more than 50,000 households are on the public housing wait list and that “more than 5000 need housing desperately”.

More than 1000 households are on the wait list for the inner city, he said, and “more than 300 needed housing weeks or months ago”.

Around 9000 new homes for public housing tenants are being built over the next five years, “around 12% of what’s needed”, Sisson said.

The Labor government’s record is not good, either. “The redevelopment projects that [Labor] took on in Minto, Claymore, Airds, Bradbury and Bonnyrigg reduced the number of homes for social housing tenants," Sisson said. “The difference with the current government is that they’re picking the highest value sites [to sell off] which are more attractive to apartment developers.”

AFPH is campaigning to defend and extend public housing to stop the sell-offs in Glebe, Waterloo, Eveleigh and Arncliffe and to protect public housing in Redfern, Surry Hills, Daceyville and South Coogee.

Glebe public housing tenant Emily Bullock said that since NSW Housing sent tenants a letter informing them of the sale of their homes at the end of last year, she has worried about where they will go.

“We hope to re-house in Glebe, but Housing NSW is selling public homes there," said Bullock. "They are causing us so much stress, so much so, one of our Glebe estate tenants committed suicide. Public housing should be more secure than private housing.”

Sydney City councillor Philip Thalis, who is standing for another term with the Clover Moore Independent team, paid tribute to Myra Demetriou, a recently deceased housing activist and Sirius tenant, saying her legacy will be kept alive by stopping the sell-offs. He said public housing in Pyrmont, Camperdown and Paddington could be next in line.

NSW Labor MLC Rose Jackson pointed to Labor governments in Victoria and Queensland that are pledging $5 billion and $3 billion respectively to build social and affordable housing.

NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong criticised the NSW government’s boast that it would make $2 billion from the sale of public housing. “The City of Sydney can co-invest $200 million and help solve the problems locally,” she said.

Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker said the government’s decision in March to make the Cowper and Wentworth Park Road public homes 100% social housing, up from 30%, “shows a mobilised community can win”.

The campaign resolved to begin monthly education stalls in Glebe.

[Get involved at Action for Public Housing and Hands Off Glebe.]

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