‘Reimagining’ the Waterloo planning approach. Yes please.

The proposal for the Waterloo South Housing Estate continues to grind its way through various bureaucratic processes.  Readers might recall that in March 2021, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment ‘called in’ the proposal from the City of Sydney which, until then, was the plan making authority for the decision. The Department is now responsible for progressing the proposal, pending advice from an Independent Expert Panel.

Behind the scenes, Shelter NSW has worked hard to advocate for the broader public interests – and especially for the current and future residents of Waterloo South.  During April, we wrote to the Minister for Planning, Industry and Environment Rob Stokes, imploring him to broaden the panel’s remit to explore some of the fundamentals underpinning the current proposals. 
Of course the key ‘fundamental’ we wanted to see the panel explore and challenge was the Communities Plus 70:30 model itself.

We noted to the Minister that:

  • Waterloo South is currently wholly owned public land.
  • Social Housing is a form of national infrastructure and NSW has a critical lack of it.
  • The Communities Plus 70:30 rule is capping the ambition for increasing the stock of social housing dwellings.
  • The ‘Social Mix’ theory drives gentrification and displacement. 
  • Affordable Housing is the ‘missing middle’ of the social mix argument.

So as to not just present problems but a possible way forward – in the same letter to the Ministers and Department, we proposed an alternative way of thinking about the commercial and financial viability of any proposal for Waterloo South; an approach that aims to optimise the provision of social and affordable housing.  We did this with the help of Professor Prof Bill Randolph, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW, and Dr Laurence Troy, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney. 

Professor Randolph and Dr Troy have prepared a very compelling submission for how a Not-for-Proft led development of the Waterloo South Estate could feasibly achieve a much better outcome than that being proposed by the Land and Housing Corporation (the City of Sydney’s model proposes over 600 Affordable Housing dwellings in addition to the social housing dwellings proposed by LAHC).

We have recently received a letter from the Department which notes that the expert panel will be providing advice to the Department ahead of a recommendation being made to the Minister. The Minister will decide whether the proposal should proceed to public exhibition and if any changes are required to be made before exhibition occurs. According to the same letter, the expert panel’s report will be made public along with approved gateway determination and the Department’s assessment reportShould the proposal progress to exhibition, the community will also have an opportunity to comment on the proposal at that time.

Shelter NSW awaits the outcome of this next phase – but conscious that for us this is an academic exercise. Current residents continue to live with the stress and uncertainty of what will happen to their homes and community.

For general reading on the application of the LAHC Communities Plus approach in the City of Sydney (including quotes from Shelter NSW staff) refer: ‘Communities Plus’ what? Understanding the inner-city social housing program – City Hub Sydney