public housing

The NSW Coalition government has sold off more than $9 billion in publicly-owned property since it took power six years ago, a state parliamentary inquiry was told on September 4.

"Over the last six years ... approximately $9.14 billion of real property assets have been recycled [sold or leased] by government agencies," the CEO of Property NSW Brett Newman told a Budget Estimates hearing.

The Andrews Labor government’s euphemistically titled Public Housing Renewal Program aims to sell a range of public housing estates across inner Melbourne in a series of public private partnerships.

These deals will hand over large swathes of land currently owned by the Department of Housing to developers and allow the construction of high rise apartment buildings. The state government wants to remove planning controls over these developments from local councils by creating a special planning committee to oversee the developments within the department.

Last week was Homelessness Week. It was also the week when the 76 homeless people sleeping in Martin Place were removed by the NSW Coalition government.

Sydney City Council has, at least, defended the “tent city” and taken a more pro-active role in trying to find solutions, compared with the NSW government which simply wants to wash its hands of this enormous problem.

The iconic Sirius building in the inner-city Rocks area has been temporarily saved from being sold to private developers, after the Land and Environment Court ruled on July 24 that the NSW government’s decision to keep the building off the heritage list was invalid.

The famous brutalist-style Sirius was specially built for public housing tenants, following the successful Builders Labourers Federation Green Bans campaign of the 1970s.

Eighty tenants and supporters rallied at the Northcote public housing estate on June 24 to protest plans to evict the tenants and demolish their homes.

Northcote is one of nine public housing estates the Victorian Labor government wants to demolish. It wants to sell the land to private developers who would build high rise units. Some "social housing" would also be built.

Addressing the rally, Aboriginal activist and public housing tenant Viv Malo linked the planned evictions to the history of dispossession of Aboriginal people.

The adage of moving house being the most stressful time of one’s life has been proved at a West Brunswick public housing estate. Resident Lindi told Green Left Weekly: “One hundred residents are being compulsorily moved. The latest notice on the move is it will be in July.”

Unless you lived in West London, you would not have known about a 24 story, 70-metre-high apartment block that served as public housing London before June 14.

Grenfell Tower housed low paid workers, single mothers, migrants — those who could not afford to live anywhere else. It is located in an affluent area of London surrounded by luxury apartment blocks, many of which are empty.

It is too early yet to write about the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower on June 14 without being overcome by a mixture of sorrow and anger. This not just could, but should have been avoided.

The residents, including through the Grenfell Action Group, have been raising concerns about the safety of the block and the refurbishment for several years. In October, the London Fire Brigade wrote to Kensington and Chelsea Council expressing concerns about the insulation used at Grenfell. They were all ignored.

Despite declaring that housing affordability would be a key priority of her government, the new NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has squibbed the challenge of any real action to improve the lot of first home buyers and renters in New South Wales.

Berejiklian was unanimously elected premier on January 23 after former leader Mike Baird resigned in the face of widespread opposition to his neoliberal policies.

She immediately named housing affordability as “the biggest concern people have across the state”.

The federal treasurer’s “solution” to the housing affordability crisis is to get state governments to relax restrictions on housing developers to increase supply.

Scott Morrison told the industry’s peak body, the Urban Development Institute, on October 24 that “housing in Australia, especially in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, is expensive and increasingly unaffordable, but that does not mean it is overvalued.”

How can you have more affordable housing and keep prices up at the same time?

The answer is you can’t do both.

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