The NSW Government has announced a 'master plan' for the redevelopment of a large portion of Telopea, north of Parramatta, over the next 10-15 years.
Public Housing is a prominent feature of Telopea. According to 2011 Census figures, Telopea contains 468 Public Housing dwellings, making up 20% of the suburb as a whole.
An information sheet provided to Public Housing tenants by FACS Housing confirms that Public Housing tenants will be relocated for works completed under the scheme, without precisely indicating who will be moved or when. It states, "The first relocations will not take place until late-2017...", and "[Affected] tenants will have the opportunity to return to Telopea after redevelopment".
Above: the boundaries of the master plan area, taking in almost half of Telopea
Indeed it appears probable that redevelopment of Public Housing sites will be a major component of the project. Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard's announcement says the project "will deliver an estimated $2.5 billion of new social, private and affordable housing and housing infrastructure". FACS Housing's Telopea Master Planning Team has provided that the Government will deliver estates with a mix of Social, Affordable and private market housing, in partnership with developers and the not-for-profit sector. And a Parramatta Advertiser report posits that such construction will comprise approximately 70% private dwellings and 30% Social Housing. This strongly resembles the Public Housing estate redevelopment strategy utilised in Communities Plus projects (as well as the preferred development style of the Social and Affordable Housing Fund).
However, it also appears that redevelopment may stretch beyond NSW Land & Housing Corporation sites. The tenant information sheet provides that "all land within this [master plan] area will be considered by the master plan, regardless of who owns the land".
Little beyond the boundaries of the precinct to be affected by the master plan appears to have been finalised. The Master Planning Team have said that the plan will continue to be developed through 2016, with local stakeholders invited to participate.
First, the Parramatta Light Rail Project will include construction of a northern line between Camellia and Carlingford. Whilst stations and their locations have not been set at this time, the line is expected to run through Telopea. Construction of the line will commence in 2018-19 and conclude by 2036.
Second, the planning team has determined that current Public Housing stock in the suburb, "does not meet the needs of many of the tenants". It cites the age of the stock, inappropriate bedroom configurations, and a lack of circulation space in reaching this conclusion.* This position is strongly reminiscent of the position regarding under-occupancy of Social Housing expressed in the Future Directions strategy for development of the State portfolio as a whole. One of three strategies proposed to reduce under occupancy therein is the construction of "more smaller, fit for purpose dwellings to match the needs of new and future tenants". The Master Planning Team also notes that the cost to NSW Land & Housing Corporation of maintaining the stock is rising as the properties age.
The team provided that the pre-existing Communities Plus project for redevelopment of public housing sites at Moffats Drive and Sturt Street, Telopea, will "be taken into account" in the ongoing development of the Government's plan for the suburb. However, the master plan project has no direct relationship to the project or to Communities Plus in general.
The announcement that Telopea is to be redeveloped appears broadly familiar to Communities Plus, though far less detailed at this stage. The bold red line denoting the boundaries of the 'master plan' encircles half the suburb, and evokes a sense of dramatic change. But the truth is that little beyond a general intention, to be realised over a period of decades, has been revealed.
A community group operating in the Telopea area has confirmed that local tenants are scarcely better informed on the particulars of how the project is to proceed. This should be addressed as a matter of priority, with tenants informed and engaged at every step. Such an approach would minimise the rumours and feelings of uncertainty that such projects stimulate, as well as provide valuable local perspective to those overseeing the redevelopment.
One of the precious few details confirmed is that at least some, and possibly many, Public Housing tenants will be relocated. And in this regard we note the same concerns as apply to estate redevelopments across NSW. Relocations are inherently stressful for those losing their homes. The needs and interests of affected tenants should be prioritised throughout the process, and the right to return under the same conditions should be upheld for those that wish to do so.
Moreover, if NSW Land & Housing Corporation sites are to be demolished for mixed tenure communities, this ought to facilitate an increase in the total number of both Social and Affordable housing dwellings in Telopea. At present there is no guarantee that stock will be increased or even retained at present levels.
Will its close proximity to Parramatta, expanding rail connections, and high quantity of publicly owned land, it is not difficult to see why Telopea has been targeted for renewal. But any properly realised vision of the suburb as a modern part of the burgeoning "Capital of Western Sydney" needs to account for tenants both current and future.
* We welcome feedback from Social Housing tenants on the suitability and condition of their homes, or any other redevelopment issues. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your anonymity will be respected.
The Telopea Master Planning team are also available for contact on 1800 761 434 or TelopeaMasterPlan@facs.nsw.gov.au.