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Putting the squeeze on public housing

The Central to Eveleigh project was discussed and debated at a community forum at Carriageworks last month with two hundred in attendance, including a number of young people recruited by UrbanGrowth.

REDWatch convenor, Michael Shreenan said some people appeared to be missing from the forum including those from public housing. Mr Shreenan praised UrbanGrowth for making the effort to hold the forum but said there had been little capacity building with local residents beforehand.

“Nearly three quarters of participants were home owners,” said Michael, “when in Waterloo 78 percent of residents are renters and 58 percent in Redfern. While it is good to capture as many views as possible, it is also important to ensure they are informed views and that the community is actually being given time to digest what is being proposed.”

Another forum participant and REDwatch member, Geoffrey Turnbull, said, “Engagement is a bit more than putting on a forum.”

UrbanGrowth NSW Chief Executive David Pitchford believes community groups have important local knowledge and has undertaken to continue to meet with them throughout the planning process.

“There is a clear message coming through,” says Mr Pitchford, “that the local community wants affordable housing including compact apartments for young people with shared spaces, and flexible floor plans.

“We want to find the smartest way to increase the amount of subsidised affordable housing and introduce new moderate income models to increase supply.”

Michael Shreenan argues that some people even struggle to pay the current rents for public housing. “Today’s market is not affordable for some low income families and I am not convinced compact apartments are the Holy Grail for affordable housing. There is a lot of evidence world-wide that the potential health risks, including mental health can outweigh any benefits.”

“The area already struggles with housing density. If they can fix the current congestion issues then the community would be more open to the inevitable density increase coming our way.”

Compact apartments also worry Geoffrey Turnbull. “I think there is a place for smaller apartments under the control of an affordable housing provider where the rental can be more closely linked to income.”

Ten priorities have been identified for the Central to Eveleigh project including the renewal of Redfern Station and more green streets and pathways to connect parks, public spaces and schools.

Planners have also promised more rail crossings, less traffic congestion, better access for pedestrians and cyclists; more shops, services and cultural areas around Redfern Station; a focus on knowledge based industries, more exercise areas, a strong arts community, a mix of housing from high rise to two-storey; and affordable housing to allow long term residents to stay in the area.

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