Inner West Independent

Privatisation scheme threatens South Eveleigh public housing

Speakers at a rally to save the public housing on Explorer Street in South Eveleigh. Photo: Allison Hore

By DANIEL LO SURDO

The NSW Government’s plan to privatise a large portion of public housing in South Eveleigh’s Explorer Street has been staunchly opposed by the community.

Residents fear what may become of their street in the coming years.

As part of the State Government’s plan to create a 38 per cent increase in social homes across the City of Sydney Local Government Area, the number of the dwellings in Explorer Street will be increased from 46 townhouses to 430 predominantly high-density housing units.

From this new housing, 70 per cent will be privatised under the NSW Government’s Communities Plus initiative.

Longtime Explorer Street resident Louisa Biddington detailed the trepidation felt in the community since the redevelopment was announced last November.

“Everyone was sort of in shock, having panic attacks and wondering where they will send us,” Biddington said.

“This is a little community here … it’s a very safe and social community.”

Biddington was one of many community leaders who converged on Eveleigh’s South Sydney Rotary Park on Saturday, petitioning the State Government to save the current iteration of the Explorer Street neighbourhood.

Adverse community outcomes

Member for Newtown Jenny Leong, another speaker at the event, believes privatisation under the Communities Plus initiative will fail to accommodate residents upon their reintegration into their newly-developed homes.

“It’s [Communities Plus] nothing about communities, it’s about the plus,” Leong told City Hub.

“The plus is the amount of profit that will go to private developers.”

A preference towards high-density housing as part of the proposed redevelopment will see many families currently living in the Explorer Street’s multi-storey townhouses without the fundamental provisions for resettlement.

“What they’re proposing to replace [townhouses] with … is one-bedroom, or if you’re lucky, two-bedroom units in a high rise,” Leong said.

“That will not be suitable for so many families.”

City Hub understands there to be a net negative in the number of beds at the conclusion of the project, despite an increase in dwellings.

Friends of Erskineville President Andrew Chuter worries the proposal will only intensify an increasingly-strained public housing system.

“It’s not just wrong at this time, during a pandemic, or at a time when the public housing waiting list is over 50,000 applicants long,” Chuter said.

“It’s wrong in principle.”

In Eveleigh’s allocation zone, general applicants are expected to wait for at least 5 years before being granted any form of social housing.

With the NSW Housing Register’s waitlist expected to grow, the City of Sydney’s 2020 Housing Audit shows that the percentage of public housing is continuing to decrease, leaving residents progressively vulnerable to the dangers of privatisation.

“Put simply, the private sphere is being allowed to massively swamp the public sphere,” Chuter said.

“If we believe that housing is a fundamental human right, we need radical change.”

Hands off Glebe spokesperson Denis Doherty and Shelter NSW CEO John Engler also spoke at the event. The protest was planned by advocacy group Hands off Glebe and resident organisation Friends of Erskineville.

The NSW Land and Housing Corporation maintain that there will be no relocation of residents until mid to late 2022, should the proposal be approved. Residents will also receive six months’ notice before moving.

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