Campaign to save Millers Point continues

Saturday, August 2, 2014
Residents of Millers Point are determined to save their homes.

The campaign to save the homes of public housing tenants at the historic inner city suburb of Millers Point is growing.

The NSW Coalition government is pressing ahead with its plan to sell nearly 300 public housing residences, in the face of determined opposition from the community and supporters.

The government has successfully pressured some residents to relocate to other public housing areas, but many of the Millers Point tenants are holding firm and refusing to move.

In mid-July, the Senate passed a motion moved by the Greens that called on the NSW government to stop selling public housing in Millers Point. The motion also called on the federal government to "increase funding for affordable housing."

NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said on July 16: "This is a small but important victory for the Millers Point residents and their supporters who have been campaigning to save 293 housing properties and to stop the eviction of 400 tenants from their homes slated for private sale.

"The Greens put this motion before the Senate to win federal support for this important campaign.

"A mighty community campaign saved Millers Point public housing in the 1970s when a Green Ban was imposed by the Builders Labourers Federation. The community is again rallying against another Coalition government that is too close to developers.

"Millers Point is of enormous historical significance and public housing in this area is a rich part of the city's heritage. The working class here is part of the character and soul of the city.

"Moves to sell off public housing are part of a longstanding attempt by successive NSW Labor and Coalition governments to assist their developer buddies to profit from 'upmarketing' Sydney.”

On July 27, the NSW Labor conference adopted a motion in support of the Millers Point residents that said: "Conference remains committed to the principle that all people deserve a decent home and the ability to build a community around it, especially in the case of community and public housing for low-income, elderly or at-risk people. We oppose the government sell-off of public housing and relocation of tenants in Millers Point and the inner city."

Member of the Save Millers Point community group Wendy Ford believes the government's action is about short-term revenue raising and could affect many more people than those at Millers Point.

"I think it's strange when [former NSW Housing Minister Pru Goward] set up a commission to look into public housing across the state, she goes and announces before this commission has finished that she's going to sell these houses off," Ford said, reported by AltMedia on July 24.

Last year, the state government sold 1386 public houses and built only 536 new ones. And the NSW budget for public housing was halved from $240 million in 2010, to $120 million in 2014.

Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich believes the government's sell-off at Millers Point equates to an act of "social cleansing," motivated by the development of the nearby casino at Barangaroo.

"The government has changed the rules to allow fast-tracking of a second casino, preventing open tenders and consideration of public benefit,” Greenwich told AltMedia. “Many people have identified that badly-maintained social housing is not the right image to attract big spending gamblers to a new casino and hotel.”

[The Save Millers Point committee is organising a Picnic Day to support Millers Point on Sunday September 14, 10am-4pm, at the Village Green, Arygle Street, Millers Point.]

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From GLW issue 1019