By ALLISON HORE
The NSW Government’s announcement of a proposal to “renew” the Explorer Street social housing estate in Eveleigh has been met with criticism from the community.
On Thursday, the NSW Land and Housing Corporation letterboxed public housing tenants in Explorer Street, South Eveleigh with a letter expressing their intention to “renew” the property in a plan that would see the property turned into a mixed-housing development which would also include private housing.
The letter said renewing the property would mean “newer and better social housing”, pedestrian-friendly streets, more public art and open spaces and a new community facility for residents.
The announcement of the Explorer Street social housing renewal proposal, on Thursday, was made alongside the government’s announcement of a proposal to revitalise a second social housing property on Franklyn Street in Glebe.
Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey said the two new projects would bring the total number of new homes in the City of Sydney to around 4,250, of which around 1,260 will be social. She added this would mean a 38 percent increase in social homes across the Sydney local government area.
“Housing is key to the economic recovery of NSW with these five projects creating around 9,400 direct and indirect jobs over the lifespan of the projects,” Ms. Pavey said.
“These two new renewals will not only increase new housing supply, but provide more and better open space and better connectivity to essential services such as shops, transport, jobs, parks and schools – which is emblematic of the work the Government is doing.”
The NSW government is working with the City of Sydney and a group of architects to develop concepts for the project. The letter to Explorer Street residents said the first step in the process would be community consultation and that if successful, the planning and approval process will take up to two years. No tenants would be required to relocate until mid to late 2022 at the earliest.
However the announcement to renew the properties as mixed-housing developments of 70 percent private housing was met with swift criticism from the community.
Jenny Leong, Member for Newtown and NSW Greens spokesperson on Housing, said the plan had less to do with maximising the development of new social and affordable housing, and more to do with opening up valuable public land to private development.
“Our communities recognise there is a deepening housing crisis across Sydney, and would welcome the redevelopment of these sites to increase public housing and the availability of homes that people can afford,” she said.
“We need government investment to deliver more high-quality public, social and affordable housing in the inner city for those who desperately need it – we need a government that respects public housing tenants.”
Ms. Pavey hit back at the criticisms to privatise part of the property and said creating a mixed use development would “deconcentrate disadvantage” in the area.
“By deconcentrating disadvantage, we can breathe new life into local economies and deliver more jobs, provide better connections to education outcomes and improve amenities for all residents,” she said.
But community group, REDWatch, which advocates for residents in Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo, said the plan would not “deconcentrating disadvantage” as an even greater number of housing tenants would be concentrated into an even smaller area.
“At best, it can be called statistical dilution,” said REDWatch.
“The same or more “disadvantaged” people, but less visible in the ABS statistics because they are swamped by people who live in the private market housing in the buildings around them.”
Over the next two years the NSW Government will be working with the City of Sydney to collect feedback on the projects.