Public housing residents rally in the Battle of Waterloo

April 28, 2016
The view from Millers Point — which the Baird government believes is wasted on public housing tenants.

Residents of public housing towers in Waterloo, inner Sydney, rallied on April 23 against the NSW Coalition government's plan to forcibly evict tenants so it can sell off their homes.

The community is fighting the government's plan to begin relocating residents from mid-next year, before demolishing the Waterloo apartment towers to build new private high-rise apartments.

Profits from the sale are proposed to help fund the privatised Sydney Metro rail line and station to be constructed in the suburb. The rally and picnic was organised by the Waterloo Action Committee (WAC), with the support of the Millers Point Community Association (MPCA) and Action for Public Housing (APH).

Barney Gardner, from the residents' group MPCA, whose public housing properties are currently being sold off, told the rally: "The government is destroying communities, including Millers Point and Waterloo. We must stick together, and help each other to organise and fight these plans."

Denis Doherty, from APH, said: "Premier Mike Baird just sees these towers are a commodity, to be bought and sold in the interests of the big developers. We must resist and say we want to stay in our homes.

"That's why we say, 'Stop social cleansing'. The Waterloo public housing towers are a community treasure that must be preserved."

Jenny Leong, Greens MP for the state seat of Newtown, said: "The Greens want to see more investment in public housing, not sell-offs. The government needs to fix the problems with the towers, not bulldoze them.

"We need to unite the whole community to fight this attack. Let's build more community actions together."

Richard, from WAC, said, "When these towers were originally opened 30 years ago, they said they were built to last 100 years. Now they want to tear them down.

"We are organising all over the state to defend our homes, and public housing in general. Our petition is going all around NSW and gaining huge support."

Meanwhile, the NSW government is engaging in a "fire sale" of public housing properties around Sydney. Since January this year, the Baird government has sold off $54.4 million in public housing to private owners.

This figure excludes the historic terraces in Millers Point, but includes the $67 million sale of the Cowper Street block in Glebe to a private developer. At the same time, the waiting list for public housing in NSW is over 60,000.

On April 11, the Sydney City Council resolved to make a $100,000 grant to the Redfern Legal Centre over two years to provide legal services to Waterloo public housing tenants.

Dr Dallas Rogers, Urban Studies lecturer at Western Sydney University, said: "The money provides help to the local community to organise and formulate a resistance campaign. It is designed to make sure that the local community gets what it needs out of this development.

"Affordable housing is being caught up in the redevelopment of Sydney. It's a battle about keeping affordable housing and cultural and socio-economic diversity in these areas," he said.

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