Friday, June 10, 2016

The Bays Precinct: housing update

Our February 2016 analysis of NSW Government developer UrbanGrowth's plans for Sydney's Bays Precinct, and the dearth of Social and Affordable Housing options therein, noted the following regarding the Sydney Fish Market site:

"An article in The Australian dated 21 January 2016 provides that UrbanGrowth has requested submissions from commercial property agents for the sale and redevelopment of 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."

Above: The current Sydney Fish Market

Singaporean property development giant Oxley Holdings has announced an intention to develop the Fish Market site. In a statement to the Singapore Stock Exchange dated May 14 2016, CEO Ching Chiat Kwong provided that "The Board of Directors of Oxley Holdings Limited wishes to announce that the group plans to enter the Australian market and is currently looking at Sydney's Bays Precinct as the location for a flagship commercial and residential project to add to its project portfolio. The Fish Market site at Pyrmont is one of several sites considered by the group as a potential redevelopment site. In line with its business strategy, the Group will collaborate with a local partner and has identified Brookfield Multiplex as a potential partner. Further information will be announced when there are material developments." 

Reporting on the announcement, The Australian newspaper noted, "The [Fish Market] site is tipped to attract a bevy of other developers, with Lend Lease, Grocon and Malaysia's UEM Sunrise Berhad among potential runners."

The announcement was not covered by UrbanGrowth's own 'Bays Precinct newsroom'. 

Our response

Though the Oxley Holdings announcement is far from definitive, it appears to signal that the wheels of Government action are very much turning on the redevelopment of the large package of land comprising the Fish Market and neighbouring waterfront. Given The Australian's previous reporting, and the top-tier status of the developers set to compete for the contract, it is also reasonable to conclude that the residential component of the project will deliver a substantial quantity of new dwellings. 

Yet Social and Affordable Housing remains, as far as we can tell, entirely off the table. We can therefore only repeat our previous concern that such an approach to redevelopment will constitute a unique opportunity lost - for the huge number awaiting Social and Affordable Housing in inner Sydney, and for the area's social mix. 

We'd also refer to the recent musings of the State MP for most of the Bays Precinct site, Jamie Parker, on the direction of the project. Mr. Parker stressed the need to provide, "sustainable, integrated, democratic, vibrant infill development that provides continuous public access to the harbour front, includes social and - importantly - affordable housing, recreation and community facilities." He is concerned that a prioritisation of commercial and private residential developments, and a shortfall in community consultation, will see the Bays Precinct end up as "Barangaroo on steroids".

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