Public housing is a life and death issue in NSW elections

March 10 protest outside NSW Parliament highlighted public housing as an important election issue. Photo by Peter Boyle (more pi

Public housing residents in Millers Point facing eviction orders are so distressed that one of them committed suicide this week, Save Millers Point campaigner Barney Gardner told a public housing protest outside NSW Parliament on March 10.

The protest united several campaigns against NSW government attempts to privatise public housing in Glebe, Millers Point and elsewhere in the state, to highlight public housing as an important election issue

There has been at least one other Millers Point resident who attempted suicide earlier, Gardner told Green Left Weekly.

"This time, it was just a young bloke who took his life just a day ago," he said. "He worked in the area and he was depressed that they wanted to shift him out."

Gardner estimated that there were 150 to 200 residents still hanging on in Millers Point. "Most of us are over 60 years of age, and we are feeling the pressure. The government continues to bombard us with notices and threats, and the people who deliver these notices don't treat the residents with any respect."

Independent NSW MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich expressed his strong opposition to the privatisation of public housing and was applauded for his support for the besieged public housing residents of Millers Point.

Labor's NSW shadow minister for housing Sophie Cotsis said that if the ALP was elected in the March 28 NSW elections it would stop the Millers Point sell-off. She was put under pressure from several the protesters to commit an ALP government to stopping privatisation of public housing across the state.

However, Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker told the protest that both Liberal and ALP governments had behaved like "slumlords". He added that while the Liberal government was worse, the ALP had neglected public housing maintenance over 16 years and sold thousands of public houses when it was in power.

The former LAbor government began the privatisation of public housing, Parker said, citing the example of the Cowper Street public housing units in Glebe which were demolished under an ALP government in 2012. After years of delay, rebuilding on the site has begun but the best third of the site is now going to be turned into private housing.

Parker suggested higher taxes on the gambling industries as one way of raising funds to pay for more investment in social housing.

Shelter NSW reported that there were 59,534 applicants waiting for social housing in NSW in June last year. A 2013 report by the NSW Auditor-General found that Housing NSW was meeting only 44% of the need for social housing and estimated that the unmet demand for social housing this year would be more than 213,000 households.

Shelter NSW says, 92% of very low income households and 55% of low income households in Sydney are struggling with unaffordable rents. More than 30% of their income goes on rent and they are in housing stress.

Overstretched providers are also struggling to service about 50,000 homeless people and people at risk of homelessness each year in NSW. This including 25,000 young people, according to a March 4 joint open letter to NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird from Yfoundations, Domestic Violence NSW and Homelessness NSW.

Socialist Alliance NSW Legislative Council candidate Pip Hinman, who was also at the protest, told GLW:

"Home prices in Sydney, already among the most expensive in the world, rose a massive 13.7% over the last year. It's good news for developers, speculators and real estate agents but bad news for ordinary people.

"People in the lowest 40% income bracket are priced out of home ownership and increasingly out of private rental.

"Housing should be a right. It needs to be liberated from the market and we can begin doing this with a radical increase in the stock of public housing, not just to address emergency welfare needs but to make it a major housing option for most people.

"As one of the speakers said at the rally today, in some European countries social housing is used by more than 30% of households while in Australia it is only 4.7%.

"Public housing can and should be affordable, good quality, socially appropriate and ecologically sustainable. And this can be done for much less than the ridiculous prices that the speculator's market is demanding."











Save Millers Point campaigner Barney Gardner with "Missing" picture of Gabrielle Upton, the NSW minister responsible for housing.









Labor's NSW shadow minister for housing Sophie Cotsis (in the red jacket), promised in her speech to the protest that if the ALP was elected in the March 28 NSW elections it would stop the Millers Point sell off.



Socialist Alliance NSW Legislative Council candidate Pip Hinman.






The independent NSW MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich expressed his firm opposition to the privatisation of public housing.















Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker told the protest that both Liberal and ALP governments had behaved like "slumlords".




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