Waterloo Estate proposal takes a new turn

In our February newsletter we gave a detailed account of the NSW Government renewal plans for the Waterloo social housing estate and our general support for the alternative proposal by the City of Sydney (the latter being the plan making authority at that time).
Since then, the Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, has ‘called in’ the City’s authority – moving the plan making authority and responsibility back to the Department of Planning. The Minister giveth and the Minister giveth away.

Like many, we were shocked to see such a move. Senior Policy Officer, Cathy Callaghan, registered our disappointment in a SMH article on the topic, noting that the Department of Planning media release had not even mentioned Waterloo’s “very significant and long-standing social housing community”.

View across the new park – image via City of Sydney planning proposal

We understand that the Minister and Department of Planning are working to a very tight deadline to resolve this deadlock.

With this in mind, Shelter NSW has taken the opportunity to write to the Minister for Planning, key Department leaders and the independent panel to offer our position. We did this as part of the Groundswell coalition and separately, with our own letter.

We have implored the Minister to use this process as a new opportunity to look at the entire Waterloo South estate renewal with fresh eyes. This is an opportunity to challenge what has become seemingly intractable positions about the mix of housing and how the project might be delivered. 

We reiterated our points of principle as a peak body, that

Waterloo South is currently wholly owned public land. Any proposal to change the use of the land should optimise a full range of public policy goals (above and beyond narrow site-specific financial outcomes).

Social Housing is a form of national infrastructure and NSW has a critical lack of it.

‘The 70:30 rule (Communities Plus) is capping ambition. The 70:30 guideline has become orthodoxy – effectively acting as a cap on the NSW Government’s ambition for increasing the stock of social housing dwellings (while completely ignoring the requirement for Affordable Housing).

The ‘Social Mix’ policy contributes to gentrification and displacement. 

Affordable Housing is the ‘missing middle’ of the social mix argument. The Communities Plus model does not allow for Affordable Housing. Even if one accepts the ‘social mix’ argument, it seems unreasonably binary that the middle ground of Affordable Housing, typically for lower-median income household is excluded. 

Our hope is that the Waterloo South local area grows to become a socially diverse residential population, representative of all types of income, cultural groups and family/household types. We share the Government’s aspiration for a well-designed, sustainable and vibrant residential and commercial community. But again, we reiterate this is wholly-owned public land, home to an existing large social housing community. We encouraged the Minister to all he could to produce the best possible outcome for the current and future residents of Waterloo South and the broader City of Sydney.