Inner city councils, including Leichhardt and Marrickville, have joined community group Friends of Miller’s Point in opposing the selling off of public housing by the NSW Liberal Government.
Friends of Miller’s Point is now made up of MPs, tenants, and public housing advocacy groups.
In April, the NSW Government announced plans to sell off public housing real estate in Miller’s Point, Dawes Point, and the Rocks, including the famous Sirius Building next to the Harbour Bridge. The move has attracted criticism from around inner Sydney, with many concerned with the government’s handling of the sell-off.
“There is already a 25-year wait list for public housing,” said Lisa Smajlov, spokesperson for the Inner West Tenant Group.
“Removing tenants from the city will push people into the inner west without any thought being put into alleviating the waiting list.”
These concerns are shared by long-time Miller’s Point resident and spokesperson for the Millers/Dawes Point/Rocks Public Housing Tenants Group, Barney Gardner.
“What they are doing, it borders on criminal,” Mr Gardner said. “They are bending over backwards – breaking their own rules – to get us to move.”
According to Mr Gardner, residents are being offered alternative housing ahead of many who have been on the public housing waiting list for years.
“They haven’t said a word about the 57,000 people already on the public housing waiting list,” Mr Gardner said.
“Why isn’t the waiting list being addressed? Here at Miller’s Point there have been properties that have been vacant for seven years, metres away from homeless people. Why couldn’t they move there?”
Leichhardt Mayor Rochelle Porteous is worried the sell-off will set a dangerous precedent for public housing in NSW.
“There is a chronic shortage of public, affordable and supported housing here in Leichhardt and right across Sydney. We need to protect our existing public housing.”
Friends of Miller’s Point is in the process of planning its inaugural meeting.
“We hope to raise awareness in the media and hopefully discuss ways to best look after the Miller’s Point residents,” said Ms Smajlov.
Ms Smajlov is concerned about what she sees as a lack of transparency from the government.
“When the previous government sold off public housing it went into salary backpay rather than going back into Housing NSW. We want to know if this money is going into facilities for tenants or if it is going towards staff and consultation costs.”
Thus far six properties have been sold at Miller’s Point, making the sale of public housing in the area a $15 million windfall for the NSW Government.
“So far, the pilot sales program has been incredibly successful in delivering much-needed funds to re-invest back into public housing stock across NSW,” said Minister for Family and Community Services, Gabrielle Upton.
“It is estimated that approximately $100 million of public money would be required to restore and maintain the heritage fabric of the entire Miller’s Point portfolio over the next 15 years.”
But this is little comfort for the residents of Miller’s Point’s historical community.
“We are losing our history, our heritage and our culture,” said Mr Gardner.
“If the people in power, the Minister, actually sat down with elderly people who have spent their whole lives here breaking into tears I don’t think they could look them in the eyes.”