By ALLISON HORE
The auction of a three bedroom terrace house in Glebe was disrupted by protesters.
On the evening of the 10th of March, public housing residents and advocates surrounded the front of a terrace house at 92 Cowper Street in Glebe in an attempt to disrupt an auction which was planned to take place there.
Ready with drums and whistles and other noise makers, they hoped the commotion would disrupt the auction.
Described in the listing as a “Victoria corner-terrace” and “blank canvas opportunity” which “will have potential renovators and investors looking to add immediate value,” the Cowper street house is a three-bedroom public housing unit but is being sold off to private owners.
“This 3 bedroom family house should have been refurbished and made available for a low income family,” said Emily Vallentine, a public housing resident who lives in the nearby Franklyn Street estate, which is also under threat from privatisation.
“Instead of selling off public housing, the government should be building thousands of new public homes each year, providing many urgently needed jobs at the same time.”
As the 6pm start time for the auction rolled around, no sign was up at the property, no estate agent turned up and bidders were nowhere to be seen. A lone security guard standing out the front of the house was the only sign that something had been planned.
The following morning, property agents confirmed that the house had been sold at an off-site auction, arranged as a result of the planned rally. Agents would not disclose the price it sold for.
Similar sized properties in Glebe have sold for upwards of $2 million, with realestate.com.au listing the median sale price of 3 bedroom properties in the area as $1.7 million.
“It’s chicken feed”
Denis Doherty of Hands Off Glebe, the group that organised the rally, said while that’s a lot of money for the average Sydney-sider, it’s just a drop in the ocean of the billions of dollars the government requires to build new public housing projects.
“They may get a good price for this, but in comparison to what’s needed, it’s chicken feed,” he said.
“This is a piece of valuable property, it’s good for a family. If you’ve got public housing, you’ve got a place to stay and from there you can break all sorts of cycles.”
Jamie Parker, Greens member for Balmain, could not be at the rally but he showed his support for the cause in a statement read out to protesters. He said the property should have been allocated to a family who needed it, rather than be sold off.
“Sydney is in the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis,” he said.
“But instead of addressing its causes, the government is exacerbating them by selling off public housing properties like this 3 bedroom terrace in Glebe.”
Mr. Parker said there are currently over 1,000 applicants “desperate for housing” in inner Sydney, and most applicants face up to a decade’s wait for housing. He said backlash towards largely publicised sell-offs has led the government to be more “quiet” about its moves.
“The government is slowly cannibalising public housing stock in the inner city,” he said.
“They’ve learned that huge sell-offs like the one at Milsons Point attract too much unwanted attention so they are now just quietly selling off individual properties like this one hoping that nobody notices.”
Mr. Doherty admitted saving the property was “a lost cause” as the government had already decided to put it up for sale and buyers would have a lot of interest in it. However, he said the protest was important for the “symbolism” and he was heartened by the larger-than-expected turn-out and the curious passersby who stopped to show their support.
“Behind closed doors they have done all the work, and we know as activists if you’re not on the table then you’re probably on the menu,” he said.
“And Glebe is on the menu at the moment.”
City Hub contacted representatives from the estate agency responsible for auctioning off the property for comment but did not receive a response.