BY CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
As the population in Millers Point continues to dwindle, those who remain are fighting hard against the government to stay in their homes.
The number of residents in the area has diminished since the government embarked last year on its agenda to rid the area of social housing tenants.
The residents turned a corner in August this year, when Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard wrote to Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich stating that there could be possible exemptions to removal in “extenuating circumstances”.
The Millers Point Working Party then met with Mr Hazzard and Mr Greenwich late last month, and offered a list of reasons residents should be allowed to stay in their homes.
On October 9, Mr Greenwich formerly requested that the minister retain some social housing in the area, and allow residents with “agreed compelling reasons” to stay, or be relocated in the area.
“These social housing tenancies could be kept in existing purpose-built, low maintenance, lower value properties within the area, while other properties are sold,” Mr Greenwich wrote.
“In addition, to keep existing social housing tenants in the area the government could allow elderly residents to age in place in their current properties, work with the City of Sydney to identify opportunity sites for new social housing developments in the area and ensure any future redevelopments in the area include social housing.”
“A diverse housing mix is essential for all parts of Sydney and low cost housing should be part of any redevelopment plans. Multi-unit properties sold for redevelopment including for internal refurbishment, should be required to provide a minimum number of social and affordable housing units, with these properties reserved for existing Millers Point housing tenants,” he wrote.
In the letter, Mr Greenwich said he understood that there were 85 residents remaining in the suburb.
Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile had previously said that he thought the purpose built Sirius building could house these remaining residents. But the state government announced plans to demolish the building in September.
It was reported earlier this year that the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and Social Housing NSW had disagreed over demolishing the apartment building.
Member of the Millers Point Working Party John McInerney told City Hub he understood that the question of Sirius’s heritage significance would be resolved this November.
Mr McInerney said the most important question now was the issue of who would be allowed to stay.
“Mr Hazzard asked us to consider reasons that we might be justified, or reasons for remaining in Millers Point, and we sent them to him,” Mr McInerney said.
“We haven’t heard much in response, we do know he is considering it, and the position of the state government, that all housing tenants be relocated. They want us to talk about ‘compelling reasons to stay’.”
Mr McInerney said the minister indicated it was a decision he would take to cabinet, and that decision will be based on his recommendation.
“The question remains which tenants [will stay] as there are only about one hundred left, given there were 400 living here a year and a half ago.”
Mr McInerney expected that the Social Housing Minister would meet again with Mr Greenwich before telling the working party his decision.
He said that he hoped the decision would be made soon “because there won’t be too many [residents] left” as the sale of property continues.
He told City Hub that the tenants who had left, returned regularly because they felt connected to the local residents and area.
“The older tenants regularly come back to the community centre; many are aged and don’t feel comfortable in their new suburb.”
He said the tenants who had been relocated had mostly moved to nearby areas of Glebe and Wooloomooloo and had been given priority on the social housing waiting list.
“It shows you how dedicated the government is to effectively closing down the Millers Point community,” Mr McInerney said.
Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard did not respond to City Hub’s enquiries.