Inner West Independent

Cowper Street building demolished to make way for new Glebe social housing

Glebe Public housing

An artists impression of the new social housing to be developed after existing building demolished. Photo: dpie.nsw.gov.au

By SASHA FOOT

An existing public housing block in Glebe has been demolished by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation to make way for a $34 million social housing development, which community activists have described as an act of “vandalism.” Once completed in early 2024, the redevelopment of 17-31 Cowper Street and 2A-2D Wentworth Park Road will increase the allocation of social housing from 19 to 75 dwellings. 

A spokesperson for Hands Off Glebe, Denis Doherty, said that the loss of the building is detrimental to low-income groups previously housed on the site. 

“The government has destroyed a building that was specifically designed for people that were fragile,” he told City Hub.

“Towards the end of the building’s life, it was used for emergency accommodation, such as those fleeing domestic violence.”

Doherty is well-connected to social housing tenants in the area, noting that the Cowper Street site was previously home to “a seventeen-year-old mother being looked after by post-natal services at Prince Alfred Hospital”. 

As a result of the planned construction, Doherty explained that “[the mother] was moved out to Richmond, a long way from support.”

New development on Cowper Street to be ‘100% social housing’

A spokesperson for the City of Sydney says the council approved the proposal presented by NSW Land and Housing Corporation last year, on the condition it was 100 percent social housing.  

“The residential development started as a mixed-use proposal before moving to 100% social housing,” the Council stated. 

The City of Sydney amended planning controls in 2020 to lift a 9 metre height restriction; the council spokesperson says the final design “meets” the heritage requirements of the area. 

The secretary of the Glebe Society, Ian Stephenson, told City Hub that the design reflects “bad planning” and fails to “look at existing [site] opportunities.” Stephenson said that instead of updating the pre-existing dwellings, the NSW government has opted to “completely disregard heritage”. 

“[The original buildings] were carefully designed by the NSW Housing Commission to fit into the character of the St Philips Estate, which is a Heritage Conservation area.”

17-31 Cowper St Glebe

The original 17-31 Cowper St, Glebe, which has recently been demolished. Photo: Ian Stephenson

A community housing provider will manage the Cowper Street development rather than the NSW state housing department. 

“Some of the community housing providers are good while some are not,” Doherty explains, “often they don’t do enough on maintenance and residents feel neglected.”

“I have had terrible complaints about maintenance and the tenant relationship with the community housing provider at Elger Street in Glebe.”

Construction on the public housing is scheduled to begin soon, with the Cowper Street development expected to take in approximately 130 new tenants when completed.

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