Waterloo South estate renewal proposal – Minister for Planning gives the green light for next stage

As exhausted and ‘locked-down’ residents wait to learn about the future of their homes and community, the proposal for the Waterloo South Housing Estate continues to grind its way through various bureaucratic processes.  Last night saw a major milestone completed.

Members 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. This was a direct intervention by what some have described as a frustrated Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes – concerned about the apparent deadlock between the City of Sydney and the NSW Government body, the Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC).
The Minister also appointed an Independent Expert Panel to provide advice to the Department about changes that might be required of the proposal ahead of what is called the ‘gateway determination’.

Tthe Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) (The Department) has now released the Gateway Determination for Waterloo South. This happened at 6pm last night.
The Minister for Planning’s decision now opens the way for the City of Sydney’s planning proposal, with some key changes, to proceed to community consultation (‘public exhibition’). This will happen after the Department completes further investigation on a number of issues as required by the Minister’s decisions.
In summary – the determination has largely endorsed the City of Sydney’s proposal with one key exception. The City’s proposal to require 20% of all dwellings to be Affordable Rental Housing was soundly rejected by the IAG (and therefore the Department) as being “financially unfeasible’’, especially within the bounds of current NSW Government policy that requires LAHC to be ‘self-funding’.
The determination includes proposed changes to planning rules delivering:

  • approximately 27% – or 847 dwellings – of the 3000 new homes as social housing (98 more than then current 749 social housing dwellings currently on the site)
  • between 5-10%, potentially 300 homes, for low-income workers. 
  • some built form changes such as building heights reduced around George St. 

For a comprehensive but relatively easy read, we commend the report produced by the Independent Assessment Panel (Gateway determination report Att F – Waterloo South IAG Final Report May 2021). It captures the history of the proposals, the key similarities and differences between both LAHC and the City of Sydney’s proposals and concerns of local residents and tenants.

As you know, beyond advocating for a dramatically increased stock of social housing, we also advocate for a far greater availability of Affordable Rental Housing as an important part of the housing continuum for the lowest 40% of income earners. We have consistently rejected the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the NSW Government’s Communities Plus model which applies a rigid 70:30 (private:social) formula to the redevelopment of public housing estates.  We were especially pleased, therefore to see the IAG note its unanimous finding that affordable housing is essential on this site in addition to the 30% social housing as part of the housing continuum.  In doing this, we believe the IAG has wedged open a crack in the Communities Plus model. 

For those wanting to learn more about the process and reports produced so far, check out the Waterloo Estate webpage on the DPIE website: Waterloo Estate State Significant Precinct – (nsw.gov.au) and today’s SMH article by Megan Gorrey

The Department of  Planning will now complete some further investigative work before the proposal will be placed on exhibition for a minimum of 42 days. Some of this includes exploring the feasibility of options to deliver closer to 10% Affordable Housing on the site.
Shelter NSW will of course in our own capacity, as well as an ally of many resident and community organisations, make further submissions on this important program. We will continue to argue that if this expensive and hugely disruptive renewal program is to go ahead, then surely it should deliver a much better outcome in terms of social housing. This estate and this community deserves direct investment by the NSW Government.  Why the resistance? 

Shelter will also be lending support to the Waterloo Residents’ Group as it works through what this next stage of the process means for them.

For any questions please feel free to contact Cathy Callaghan, Senior Policy Officer.