Defending public housing!

On Wednesday 12 May, Shelter NSW proudly attended a rally in support of public housing tenants across Sydney, who are facing redevelopment and eviction under the NSW Government’s ‘Communities Plus’ program.

Residents of Glebe, Eveleigh, Waterloo, Redfern, and other suburbs came together to defend their right to safe and secure public housing in the inner city, without threat of eviction, relocation, or demolition. Under the Communities Plus program, historic, 100% government-owned public housing sites have been put up for sale with up to 70% of the site available to private developers, and only 30% allocated for social housing.

As the residents and speakers at Wednesday’s rally made clear, this will mean disruption and dislocation for existing tenants, shorter and more insecure lease arrangements for new tenants, and a huge net reduction in both the proportion and raw numbers of public housing dwellings in these areas. This at a time when more than 50 thousand people are desperately waiting for social housing in NSW, and rental and housing affordability continues to worsen at all ends of the market..

Emily Valentine, housing activist and resident of Bay Street public housing in Glebe said: “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.

“Sydney is in the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis. But instead of addressing the causes and effects of this crisis, the government is making it worse by selling off public housing properties.”

Other residents spoke of the issues they have faced as a result of housing stress and insecurity, and the importance of public housing not just as a last resort, but as a right, just like public healthcare, education, and transport.

Shelter NSW was honoured to stand beside residents and support their strong and resolute call for housing justice, and we will continue to support tenants in their fight to save their homes. It is very possible for the government to ‘reimagine’ these redevelopments and the Communities Plus model, as has been done already in Cowper Street and Wentworth Park Road, which are now to be 100% social housing rather than 30%.

We urge the State Government to reconsider its approach to all proposed redevelopments, and really consider what is needed by the community. 

We also encourage the community to keep building on these small wins, as change will only come through your sustained pressure and united advocacy.

If you would like to read a full report of the protest and an outline of the campaign and issues, we encourage you to read this excellent article from CityHub, and head to the Hands Off Glebe website for more general information.

Judy Mundey speaks to residents