Housing

There is a climate emergency. The massive forest fires in Canada, the Lucifer heatwave engulfing southern Europe and Australia experiencing its warmest July on record have all happened within the past fortnight. Yet, Australia’s carbon emissions continue to rise.

The growing movement to prevent the Adani Carmichael coalmine, as well as fossil fuel divestment campaigns, show we are making headway. But activism is not enough.

“Don’t let our community be destroyed” was the message of the Gronn Place community meeting organised by Friends of Public Housing and Socialist Alliance on August 30.

About 50 public housing tenants and supporters of public housing gathered to discuss their rights. This was the second meeting on the estate. The first meeting was held on July 15.

After more than six months camped outside the Reserve Bank building in Martin Place, and following months of negotiations between the state government and the City of Sydney Council, the homeless occupants of Sydney’s tent city began packing up their belongings on August 11.

The man often called the “Mayor of Martin Place”, Lanz Priestley, said some camp dwellers were moving to “friend’s places” or “friend’s backyards”, but some “don’t have anywhere to go”.

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.

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US has led many to ask where is our Corbyn or our Sanders and to question whether conditions in Australia are ripe for a similar break to the left.

Because Australia was buffered from the worst of the GFC, due mainly to the mining boom, some argue that conditions here may need to get a lot worse before people are prepared to get behind a left platform.

Let’s look at some social indicators in Australia today.

Residents of the Gronn Place public housing estate in West Brunswick vowed to resist eviction at a community forum on July 15.

Gronn Place residents’ spokesperson Neville, who has lived there for 30 years, said, “We will not let them tear down our homes,” adding that he would chain himself inside his home. “I'm not going anywhere. They’ll have to drag me out.”

About 80 residents and supporters attended the lively community forum, the first since residents received letters that they would be evicted.

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster are not being offered suitable accommodation by Kensington and Chelsea Council, Morning Star Online reported on July 6, as British Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced yet another taskforce would be sent in to cover the calamitous Tory local authority’s failings.

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.

Homelessness is a growing problem in Australia.

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