i) The port facilities, silo complex, and disused power station at White Bay and Glebe Island;
ii) The industrial area, light rail line, and disused heavy rail lines along Lilyfield Road, Lilyfield;
iii) The Sydney fish market, Pyrmont;
iv) Wentworth Park, Glebe;
v) Path areas connecting these sites.
Aerial view of 'The Bays Precinct' (White Bay in foreground)
According to the transformation plan, this represents a major redevelopment project to be undertaken over a 25-year period. The plan lists nine overarching project objectives. Objective three is "To deliver housing choices, including affordable housing options, through design, finance and construction excellence". The plan also divides planned works into "immediate" (2015-2019), "medium-term" (2019-2022), and "longer-term" (2022-) priorities.
Delivery of affordable housing is only referenced with regard to one sector of the precinct to be redeveloped - the Lilyfield road site. It reads, in full, "Future uses could include a mix of different housing choices, including affordable housing, as well as public spaces and employment uses." The Lilyfield site is listed as a 'longer-term' priority.
The document does not make any reference to the delivery of social housing.
An article in The Australian dated January 21 2016 provides that UrbanGrowth has requested submissions from commercial property agents for the sale and redevelopment of the fish market site.The site is being renewed with reference to a private memorandum of understanding between its owners and UrbanGrowth. It states that the request for redevelopment is "aimed at turning the block into a world-class food market, with the winning party to also build apartments on the site." It is not provided that these apartments will include any Affordable and/or Social housing component.
The piece also provides that the Government "is taking offers for the development rights to transform the nearby White Bay Power Station into a 100,000 square metre office park". An article the the Inner West Courier dated 4 February says that the University of Sydney, University of NSW, University of Technology Sydney, and Macquarie University are hoping to develop the space into a shared campus for tech students. The request for proposals for the White Bay site closes on 25 February 2016.
An UrbanGrowth media release dated 9 December 2015 provides that the NSW Federation of Housing Associations, the peak body for community housing in the state, is amongst the 68 organisations granted membership of the 'Bays Precinct Reference Group'. According to the statement, the group "will be an ongoing forum for communication between UrbanGrowth NSW and the community throughout the Bays Precinct Transformation Program".
The critical need for new social and affordable housing stock in NSW, and especially Sydney, is well-documented. More than 60,000 people are currently awaiting housing assistance on the NSW Housing Register. For most of the state capital - including the Inner Sydney and Inner West allocation zones that include the Bays Precinct - the wait for most types of social housing dwelling is over ten years. The Baird administration has formally acknowledged this need, making the supply of new stock one of its three priorities for social housing over the next decade in its all of government Future Directions strategy.
The Bays Precinct, meanwhile, is one of the largest and most high profile initiatives of the Government's urban renewal arm. 95 hectares is an extremely large package of land in the inner city. Moreover, a large portion of that which has been slated for redevelopment is publicly owned and currently disused or even empty. That this represents a unique opportunity to contribute to the alleviation of the social and affordable housing crisis in Sydney is self-evident.
However, despite the project objectives proclaiming the importance of 'housing options', the available evidence suggests delivering social and affordable housing in this precinct is not a priority. The immediate priorities for renewal - the power station and fish markets - look set to include no social or affordable housing at all. Only long-term priority Lilyfield "may" include a mix of housing, when developed at an undetermined point in the future. Community Housing interests will have a voice on the project reference group, amongst more than sixty other organisations representing myriad interests.
Completing the Bays Precinct renewal without the inclusion of social and affordable housing will represent a unique opportunity lost - both for the tens of thousands enduring an interminable wait for stable and secure housing, and for our state Government who has recently placed a great deal of emphasis on increasing the city's 'social mix'.