Inner West Independent

Reimagining of Glebe’s social housing estate a “much-needed win” for the inner-city community

Residents who have been campaigning to save their public housing properties are celebrating the win. Photo: Daniel Lo Surdo

By DANIEL LO SURDO

Revised plans for housing renewal on Glebe’s Cowper Street and Wentworth Park Road have been heralded as an important victory for social housing tenants in the City of Sydney Local Government Area.

NSW Government Minister for Water, Property & Housing Melinda Pavey announced last month its intentions to deliver 100 per cent new social housing on Cowper Street and Wentworth Park Road, with a total of 75 new homes to be completed, including five three-bedroom terrace homes for larger families.

Behind, and across from the terrace houses, will be two eight-storey woolstore-style apartment buildings designed by architect Johnson Pilton Walker. Both buildings would have communal rooftop gardens for residents and non-residential ground floor spaces. Walker’s design was selected after a competitive process which four design teams were invited to participate in.

Under the Communities Plus program, the $34 million estate was originally fixtured for renewal under a mixed-tenure approach, whereby approximately 70 per cent of housing would be privatised.

Concept art for the new development on Wentworth Park Road and Cowper Street in Glebe. Photo: NSW Government

Community activism

Shelter NSW CEO John Engeler believes the decision to be indicative of an array of community participation transcending those living in social housing.

“We’re very emboldened and I see it as a much-needed win,” Engeler told City Hub.

“Cowper and Wentworth, within a couple of weeks, went from being close to a Communities Plus model to being 100 per cent social housing … and I think we would all be in agreement in saying it wasn’t just one piece of activism, but a whole tapestry of activism working together … to impact and affect that change.”

Alterations made to the Glebe estate will now offer further and mixed-density dwellings for social housing tenants.

“The re-imagination of the project from mixed-tenure to 100 percent social will provide additional homes for people in need and provide the Government with greater flexibility to help bring forward other redevelopment projects in the City of Sydney,” a Land and Housing spokesperson told City Hub.

“[The project] will deliver more social housing that is much better aligned to tenant requirements and demand.”

NSW Parliament Member for Balmain Jamie Parker praised his constituents for their efforts in establishing stronger social housing outcomes in Glebe.

“The community made clear that taking public land and effectively privatising 70 per cent of it was unacceptable. This decision demonstrates that community action can and does change government decisions,” Parker said.

“I’ve been so proud to see the support for public housing tenants and the effort to maintain our diverse community.”

Residents protest outside the Franklyn Street public housing block set to be demolished. Photo: Allison Hore

A model for the future

With Cowper and Wentworth Park Road the first of the City of Sydney’s social housing facilities to be renewed without private dwellings, Engeler hopes the decision will serve as a model for bordering estates subject to renewal.

“I think [Cowper and Wentworth Park’s] symbolic of what should happen on all sites in the inner-city that the government owns,” Engeler said.

“When I hear the word reimagining, I hear behind that great possibilities; never say never, it’s amazing what can happen when people work together.”

Shelter NSW Senior Policy Officer Cathy Callaghan echoed the sentiments of her colleague, understanding that the waves of activism to be the driving force in delivering stronger outcomes for the inner-city community.

“We’re concerned that Communities Plus has become code for complacency, and when we look at these sites, I think the residents there really put the spotlight on it and probably got a few of the planners back in Land and Housing to pull out the files and have a look,” Callaghan told City Hub.

“These are huge, valuable blocks of land and we believe every site and every community in NSW deserve a customised look at that site; about the value of the land, the value of future development, what the local area needs, and what’s the capacity of the site financially, commercially, to deliver something better for people in general.”

As part of the NSW Government’s Future Directions for Social Housing, almost 4,300 new homes across the City of Sydney Local Government Area will be delivered, with about 1,300 remaining social housing dwellings.

How the decision to rework the Wentworth Park Road development into one that is 100 percent social housing will impact similar renewal schemes remains to be seen.

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