Monday, April 22, 2024
HomeNewsMinister looks to rework Waterloo South

Minister looks to rework Waterloo South

When the current stage of the previous government’s procurement process for Waterloo South ends in about a month, the new NSW government will review the proposal to see how it can be turned into something that Labor can support. This was the key message delivered by Minister Rose Jackson at a REDWatch housing forum on June 5, 2023.

Under the current stage of the procurement process inherited by the incoming NSW Labor government, interest from four potential development consortiums is to be reduced to two by mid-2023. Minister Jackson told the meeting that “we aren’t able to stop that without massive compensation to the participants in that process and potentially we want to see what comes out of it”.

Minister Jackson said “the previous government’s proposition in relation to that redevelopment was a bad plan and we didn’t support it” and went on to set out a number of underlying principles that will be used in making a decision about Waterloo and other public housing redevelopments.

The first principle is that developments have to provide “a substantial uplift in the number of social and affordable housing”. Jackson said the “voice of people on the waiting list is a really important voice not to forget. So that is a core principle. We want more”.

The second principle, Jackson said, was that we want homes that deliver dignity to people “homes and modern amenity, not shit boxes”.

Thirdly, Jackson said, “We don’t want to sell government land and we won’t sell government land as part of these projects. That is not what any of these renewal projects will result in”.

Earlier in the meeting Jackson welcomed the federal housing initiatives and said if passed they could deliver around 16,000 new homes in NSW but that the federal contribution alone was not enough. “The state government is going to have to step up and do a lot more and we’re interested in doing that,” she said.

There was no indication of how the new government might step up and pay for a redevelopment like Waterloo without selling land even if there was a federal contribution.

Fourthly, Jackson said there would be an “automatic guaranteed right of return to anyone who is temporarily moved as a result of redevelopment and any relocations” and that “temporary relocations will occur in the local area”.

Finally, Jackson indicated that the Charter on Estate Renewal, which was developed in 2016 by the Tenants Union and Shelter NSW with City Futures at UNSW, will be reactivated. It “talks about delivering control and autonomy and agency and voice,” Jackson said. The adoption of this Charter has been a key request of both non-government organisations and public housing tenants, but the previous government would not agree to it.

Jackson said, “specifically on Waterloo South, those principles will underpin the decision that we’re keen to make … in about a month we will have the opportunity to look at where the proposals are up to and then make some decisions about how to apply those principles to that project”.

In response to a question later in the meeting about the 2022 NSW Labor Conference motion, Jackson confirmed that she considered the conference motion to be the policy of the NSW government.

That motion called for implementing legislation in a number of areas “which places a moratorium on the privatisation of public housing including the sale, outsourcing, or leasing of any public housing assets or services”. It also included legislation which guarantees that the number of public housing residences in NSW and in the inner suburbs of Sydney increases in both aggregate terms and as a proportion of total new housing stock.

Jackson emphasised that her current focus was on the many things that could be done immediately without legislation. She cited building more social housing stock and getting the maintenance contracts redone in public housing as examples. Legislation changes would come when the legislative timetable allows.

Jackson said she completely understands people’s frustration about wanting quick decisions. “I want that too. But similarly, you know, we can’t rush things when there are processes that were initiated.”

Waterloo tenants will have to wait a month or two longer to see how the principles outlined by the Minister will shape the decision about Waterloo South. It is clear, however, that while the new government has inherited a process from the previous government, it is not planning to just let it proceed without examining how it can improve the outcomes for those on the waiting list and for existing tenants.

How the NSW government will pay for these improved projects while not selling government land remains an unanswered question.

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Geoffrey Turnbull is a co-spokesperson for REDWatch.

You can find both a full transcript of Minister Jackson’s comments and audio from the REDWatch meeting on the REDWatch website.

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