City News

Revealed: the legacy of government neglect at Millers Point

Protesters outside Sydney Town Hall. Photo: Natalie Cox / Capture That Photographics

By Edmund Kirkwood

Successive state governments have failed to adequately maintain properties at Millers Point, public housing tenants say.

Damning accounts of the neglect shown to these ageing properties call into question the legitimacy of the government’s claim that the houses have simply become too expensive to maintain.

In an interview with City News, lifetime resident of Millers Point Barney Gardner cited poor workmanship and infrequent government inspections as reasons for the continued dilapidation of government housing in the area. He pointed to dodgy gutter repairs as just one example, which he claims have caused more flow-on problems for many tenants.

“For some reason my newly installed gutters were overflowing. Later, another workman told me that the gutters weren’t bevelled properly – the gutter wasn’t slanted towards the downpipe – causing them to overflow,” Mr Gardner said.

“But no one from the government came down to inspect the work.”

A common result of bad guttering and sub-standard repairs is dampness and moisture in walls and floors, creating a potentially hazardous and structurally unsound living environment. Mr Gardner recounts a house with dampness between the upstairs bathroom and the downstairs ceiling as a result of poor piping.

“Because the pipes haven’t been married together properly, water is getting into the downstairs’ ceiling. I went in there and there was a light fitting full of water.”

Chris, a Millers Point resident of 40 years, alleged that a resident had to take legal action against the government to fix endemic household dampness that caused her severe respiratory issues.

“We had one person who had to take them [the government] to the tribunal four times to fix her dampness. She ended up with pneumonia, and a heart condition,” Chris, who preferred not to give his last name, told City News.

These issues are not exclusive to public housing in Millers Point, he argues, but are occurring state-wide.

“There are so many stories of bad workmanship, they are coming back again and again to fix the same problem, and getting paid each time.”

Mr Gardner said inspectors from Housing NSW have been alerted to the problems but have done little about them.

“They’ve chosen to ignore the problems, and in doing so have made things a lot worse.”

Residents also contend that companies contracted to do maintenance on behalf of the government have not completed renovations, leaving jobs unfinished and exposed to further damage.

“I had a leaky tap. The plumber knocked all the surrounding tiles off to fix the problem, and he’s just left it [the tiles off],” Chris said.

“It’s been left there with a plastic sheet over it [held together] with duct tape.”

Mr Gardner alleges that contractors, as recently as two months ago, have deliberately not finished jobs, and when asked why, told him that the government is not paying them enough to fully complete the job.

“A month ago one of my neighbours said that the [housing] department was sending someone to paint the inside of their house,” Mr Gardner said.

“But the painter turned up and said he could only paint the ceiling, explaining that they weren’t paying him enough, and that he would be losing money if he painted the whole house.

“This is a common story of what’s going on all around the state.”

Despite grim living conditions, many residents are willing to endure ongoing maintenance issues as long as they can stay in their beloved Millers Point.

“We just want to remain a community,” Chris said. “What they’re doing is heartless. It’s wrong.”

The office of family and community services minister Pru Goward did not respond to requests for comment.

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