Public housing activist: ‘Supply, supply, supply’ is no solution to the housing crisis

June 22, 2023
Karyn Brown speaks at a housing rally. Photo: Peter Boyle

Public housing tenant and Waterloo Public Housing Action Group activist Karyn Brown gave the following speech to a public housing rally on June 17.

* * *

I live in Waterloo. I have lived there for more than 30 years. I do pay rent — 25% of my income.

We’re in the middle of the worst housing crisis in most people’s memory and demolition makes no sense. Removing hundreds of homes from existing stock makes no sense. We need more housing now, not in 15 years. Resources and labour should go to repairing and rehabilitating existing buildings and building more on already vacant land, not into evictions and demolitions.

Our climate and planet are also in crisis and we desperately need to reduce emissions and cut waste. We have stopped sending containers to landfill, it is time we stopped sending perfectly good buildings to landfill.

Existing public housing can be expanded and existing services can be expanded alongside it. That is a much better idea than starting from scratch in new locations with new demographics.

In Waterloo, over the decades, particular needs of the very, very diverse community have been identified and met through the hard work and dedication of many including non-government organisations, academics, volunteers and, even, government.

All of this will be obliterated: every trace of us will be scraped off and replaced with just buildings.

“Supply, supply, supply” we are told will make housing more available and affordable. Well, it hasn’t so far.

Housing developers build for profit, not liveability, and they will not flood the market with new housing because they don’t want prices to fall.

Enough of them planning our city to satisfy their greed!

They do not need incentives to give us only 15% “affordable” housing for 15 years only. They’ve got enough incentive in the profits they make. How about we make unaffordable housing for 15 years only and then revert it to public housing?

There are 1 million empty properties across Australia. Rules need to be made to ensure that they are made available. A tax on long-term vacancies is one way and a ban to stop anyone with untenanted properties from buying any more is another.

I am not a NIMBY: I am not against progress. There is room for more housing in Waterloo by repairing and adding to existing homes.

Video: Public housing resident explains why she is resisting demolition and privatisation. Green Left.

To anyone who thinks Waterloo is a done deal and we should just give up, think of the place you lived in for the longest time and all the familiar things in the neighbourhood, and the places and people.

Imagine you were told that you and 80 of your nearest neighbours will be shoved aside because somebody else wants to live there; that you are to be cleared out for a building site.

Times that by 10 and you get what the developers are proposing for us in South Waterloo. It is offensive and mean, and a very bad idea.

So we will keep fighting to save Waterloo. Join us, stay with us in that fight. Believe in people power! Save Waterloo.

[Karyn Brown is a resident of Waterloo Estate and is a member of Action for Public Housing. APH is hosting a forum “No more demolitions! Alternatives to public housing redevelopment” on July 18 at Redfern Community Centre.]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.