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Community responds to Waterloo South – 50 per cent social and affordable

The 1,000-plus public housing residents of the Waterloo South public housing estate have recently learned of the new government’s plans to redevelop the estate.

The SSH reports: “The development will now see social housing increase from 28 per cent to 30 per cent (from 847 to 900 units) and affordable housing increase from 7.5 per cent to 20 per cent (from 227 to 600 units). In addition, a minimum of 15 per cent of both the social and affordable housing will be dedicated to Aboriginal people. This means Aboriginal affordable housing goes from 23 to 90 units – an increase roughly the size of the Pemulwuy project” (

Critics point out the challenges of what will be a vastly denser precinct, and the government’s reluctance to guarantee affordable housing in perpetuity. Others are hopeful that developers might deliver above the minimum requirements.

Action for Public Housing condemns the decision, pointing out it entails the demolition of 749 existing public homes and forced relocation of tenants “so that the estate can become mostly private housing”. Rachel Evans says: “On top of the distress it will cause current residents of Waterloo South, forced relocations and demolition of the estate will further delay housing for thousands on the waiting list.”

Waterloo public housing resident Karyn Brown adds: “Don’t believe the spin about ‘affordable housing’, which can be leased for 80 per cent of market rates. In Waterloo, that means a two-bedroom ‘affordable’ apartment can be leased for $776 per week!”

Mike Shreenan of Counterpoint Community Services comments: “The announcement is as good as it gets within current NSW Housing policy and is a welcome step forward. However, until government has the foresight and political spine to pay directly for new and additional public housing the current housing crisis won’t be abated. We need to ensure adequate accessible support and community ownership as plans move to implementation.”

Co-chair of the Waterloo Redevelopment Group, Cathryn Callaghan, also speaks for Shelter NSW. She says: “As the NSW government assesses which consortia bids make their way through the commercial process, we encourage them to look hard at what’s being proposed.

“Which bid offers affordable rental housing in perpetuity or a commitment to ensuring low-income people secure those tenancies? Which consortia has really thought about the lives of the thousands of people living in the private dwellings, many of them low-income renters.

“There is still time for the government to extract more value out of these proposals – by setting and demanding high standards for this redeveloped estate.”

Deputy Mayor Sylvie Ellsmore states: “The community deserves so much better than what the Labor government has announced for Waterloo South.

“The latest plans involve privatising half of the land, and delivering only a tiny amount of extra public housing in return.

“We have over 1,000 people on the public housing waitlist in the inner city alone.

“The waiting list is getting longer in part because the amount of public housing has been shrinking at a rapid rate in the inner city. It was 12 per cent ten years ago, and only 8 per cent now. This project will only make things worse.

“The new Labor government promised not to sell off public housing land, but instead we have seen continuation of many Liberal projects to demolish and privatise inner-city public housing – not just in Waterloo, but in Glebe and Erskineville.

“Waterloo is the largest public housing estate in the inner city. Rather than evicting people in a housing crisis, and privatising half the site, we should be aiming for 100 per cent public housing.

“We also need to demand better transparency about the money. We’re talking about plans to hand over billions in dollars of public land, with a confidential tender process already well underway.

“The community deserves to know how much public wealth the Labor government is planning to trade away, in return for a tiny amount of new public housing.”

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