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Selfless revamp, or threat to the neighbourhood? Elizabeth Bay locals divided over boarding house

The harbour views from the Pomeroy apartments (pictured centre) are now threatened by a boarding house development in Elizabeth Bay. Photo: Richardson & Wrench Elizabeth Bay/Potts Point.

By SHARLOTTE THOU

John Pooley and Prudence Harper’s proposed boarding house in Elizabeth Bay’s Billyard Avenue has been met with resistance from neighbours, who are concerned that their harbour views may become obstructed by the new development.

Planned renovations to their harbourside property include a six-storey extension to the rear of the property, which could potentially house up to 37 residents. The development application states there will be two car spaces, 28 rooms with kitchenette facilities, and a shared kitchen, laundry and living facilities.

The neighbouring Pomeroy Apartments will be hard hit if the boarding house proceeds, with views up to the third floor potentially blocked.

“We just don’t want this to happen,” Pomeroy resident Roula Sfeir told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s going to annihilate our view, our light, our air – the whole lot. That [view] is what you pay for and that’s what you’re in here for – and then this happens.”

Third floor resident Raoul Wanner agreed, saying “the bottom apartment will be turned into a gloomy cave … [leading] to issues to do with penetration of sunlight, obstruction of views, penetration of light generally.”

Local resident Deb Burdett described the proposal as “dangerous”, saying that “view holders everywhere should be shaking in their boots”.

The boarding house aims to provide essential workers with “the opportunity to live safely and within close proximity where possible to their field of work” and will preference people on low to moderate incomes.

However, the architect of the proposed boarding house, Tone Wheeler, said the property’s mostly wealthy neighbours found it “very hard to understand that John and Prue’s motivation for this is to provide some lower cost housing”.

NSW Tenants’ Union CEO Leo Patterson Ross has criticised this stance, saying “it is really shameful for Australia that anyone finds it hard to understand why lower-cost housing is important in all areas”.

Mr Patterson Ross also expressed his doubts on whether the boarding house presented a feasible low-cost housing option, noting that based on the development application, it is unclear whether the boarding house will operate as a traditional boarding house or a for-profit ‘new generation’ boarding house.

‘New generation’ boarding houses rely on the “small size of the premises to claim it is more affordable” but ultimately “attract close to the same rent as full-sized one bed apartments, without the amenity”.

Mr Patterson Ross said that the proposed boarding house will be unable to compete with “the price, space or stability” of public housing, “of which there are many in nearby Woolloomooloo”. He criticised boarding houses for being “unjustifiably small” and for not offering the “same stability or rights as other renters”.

He added that the boarding house was “unlikely” to resolve the lack of low-cost accommodation options in areas like Potts Point.

“We simply need to build or convert current housing to public and community housing, or consider more targeted and effective measures to ensure the primary purpose of our housing system is to house people,” he said.

The development application was on exhibition from 8 November to 21 December, and is currently under assessment by City of Sydney urban planners.

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