Friday, February 1, 2019

Millers Point: through the looking glass

  Thanks to Jane Bennett for allowing us to reproduce her painting, 67 Lower Fort St - This is my home.
   Thanks also to Sally Parslow for her consent.

Let’s reflect on the forced relocation of public housing tenants from Millers Point. Here, the looking glass is The Brown Couch and Clearing House, blogs of the Tenants’ Union of NSW. A selection of posts allows us to see beyond the surface of the mirror.

The announcement

19 March 2014: The O'Farrell Government announces the proposed sale of 293 public housing properties in Millers Point and the Rocks. The Tenants' Union of NSW condemns this sell-off of public housing. Here’s its media release following the announcement of the sale. Here's the residents' response.

25 June 2014: Millers Point and The Rocks: heritage under threat

4 August 2014: Millers Point and the United Nations. Our colleague, Kim Boettcher, solicitor for The Aged-care Rights Service (now called Seniors Rights Service), addresses the United Nations' Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing and draws attention to the plight of tenants of social housing at Millers Point and The Rocks, and of other older persons.

7 October 2015: Eighteen months after the announcement of the sale, we take a sobering look at the impact on this unique inner-suburban community and its resident tenants. Our article is entitled: ‘You shall not covet your neighbour's house.’ Check our blog here

19 November 2015: A new Minister for Social Housing provides a ray of hope ... Ninety public housing tenants remaining in Millers Point received letters in November 2015, with an offer to stay in the historic suburb by swapping their current homes for other non-heritage apartments. Check our blog here

2 August 2016: We're saddened by the weekend's news that Sydney's iconic Sirius Building will not be listed on the NSW Heritage Register, despite the unanimous recommendation of the Heritage Council of NSW. Check our blog here.
The impact on the residents

8 September 2016: ‘Brutal’... This is how the residents describe the actions of Housing NSW in Millers Point. Their experiences are documented by Professor Alan Morris of the University of Technology Sydney. He allows the residents to tell the story of their displacement in their own words.

This paper concludes:
What is evident is that the actual and intended removal of public housing residents from Millers Point unleashed a great deal of hardship and distress. ... In sum, the way the New South Wales government has gone about the move was viewed by most interviewees as brutal. ... The announcement that all residents were to be moved was catastrophic for some residents and precipitated extreme anxiety and depression.
Check our blog here.

2 February 2017: Millers Point ... time to reflect. We say:
[The new Premier should revisit] ... the sale of all social housing stock in Millers Point. It is not too late to retain some of Millers Point and the Sirius Building for social housing, so that Millers Point remains a mixed community and not a ghetto for the wealthy.
Check our blog here.

16 March 2017: We reflect on the third anniversary of the announcement to sell all public housing properties in Millers Point. We also reflect on a report of the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. At Paragraph 6, it reads:
In many countries in the global South ... the impact of financialization is experienced differently, but with a common theme — the subversion of housing and land as social goods in favour of their value as commodities for the accumulation of wealth, resulting in widespread evictions and displacement.
Sounds like Millers Point, Sydney, Australia ... even though we're a so-called first world country.

26 May 2017 and 6 June 2017: Professor Alan Morris of the University of Technology Sydney writes again about the experiences of the residents forced to relocate. We have called our blogs “It was like leaving your family’ and 'It was like leaving my family: Postscript'.

In the first of these blogs, we reveal that Professor Morris uncovers an early media release from then NSW Finance Minister who announced that the government was considering selling off much of the public housing in Millers Point, because 'the government needs to consider it in the context of all of the surrounding areas, including the Barangaroo redevelopment area.' [my emphasis]. Previously we wrote: 'Ponder ... the real agenda at Millers Point is to free up housing stock around Barangaroo for gentrification and to create a Paris Quarter ... a touch of Montmartre.' 

27 July 2017: Our pleas to hit the pause button came to nought. We ask: 'Will the NSW Government show compassion and allow older residents of Millers Point to age-in-place in their homes? Yes, stop the evictions. Yes, seize the opportunity which the Land and Environment Court has provided and talk again about the importance of retaining social housing in Millers Point.' We say: 'You have received oodles of cash from the sales to date and you also announced a billion dollar windfall in revenue from stamp duty in this year's State Budget.' Check our blog here.

The last days

20 March 2018: Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward, asserts:
Hundreds of people on the social housing waiting list and hundreds more will have access to brand new homes as the NSW Government continues to deliver on its promise to build more housing through the sale of properties in Millers Point.
Fact Check: Check our analysis of the Minister's statement here.

15 June 2018: The Supreme Court gives the sole surviving tenant of Millers Point 28 days to vacate, after 42 years in her home and the Government stands to exceed its expected takings by $200 million. Millers Point changes forever. New social housing dwellings are being built using these monies, but in nearly all cases, they are not close-by. None of the Government's bonanza from stamp duty income has been channelled into expanding the provision of social and affordable housing. Check our blog here.

21 June 2018: There is only token acknowledgement of ‘ageing-in-place’ in Government policies. The redevelopment of old public housing estates poses real hardships for many older tenants where only lip service has been given to this principle. Check our blog here

9 November 2018: With the sale of the final two terrace houses, Property NSW announces the end of the Millers Point sales program ... [but for] the sale of the Sirius building. So who are the new residents? We have glimpses: it's turned from struggle street to billionaire's row. And, of course, 'Kent Street' now is known by some as 'Rent Street', because of its many Airbnb listings. Check our blog here

Sirius building

The sale of the Sirius building proceeds ... here’s the latest media articles. In late January 2019, Jacob Saulwick and Sarah Keogham write in The Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Don't sell Sirius to the Opal tower developer, local politicians urge Premier.’ Read their article here. They follow this up with a second article: ‘Opal developer pulls out of the running for Sirius sale.’ Read their second article here.  

Further blogs

There are 30 posts on The Brown Couch  that make reference to Millers Point. Above is just a selection. For all posts, check here. When you reach the end of each section, click 'Next Posts'.

In addition to the above, there are 22 posts on Clearing House that make reference to Millers Point. For all posts, check here. When you reach the end of each section, click 'Older Posts'.

Books and film


Alan Morris, Gentrification and Displacement: The Forced Relocation of Public Housing Tenants in Inner-Sydney, Springer, 2018. Check here.

John Dunn, Ben Peake, Amiera Piscopo, Save Our Sirius: The Book, Piper Press, 2018. Check here.

The film:

Check out venues and times here

Lessons to learn

In June 2017 as well as the evictions out of Millers Point, Sydney was witnessing: the ongoing redevelopment of Airds-Bradbury; mass forced transfers out of the Ivanhoe estate for redevelopment;
and the planning for Waterloo ramping up following a year or more of uncertainty since the original announcement.

Into this context Shelter NSW, Tenants' Union of NSW and City Futures Research Centre at the University of NSW published a report entitled 'A Compact for Renewal: What tenants want from Renewal'.

On page 3 of the report it reads:
The next stage in the project following this is to present these findings to renewal agencies in NSW, including Government and community sector agencies and seek their feedback on the extent to which those agencies believe they can deliver what tenants want. Subject to the willingness of agencies to engage with the project, we seek to negotiate a set of ground rules by which agencies agree to manage renewal projects in social housing areas. In this negotiation, the project partners emphasise their willingness to understand what’s important for the agencies about the renewal process and to work through the list of what tenants want from renewal to identify a set of ground rules both parties are comfortable with.
Consultations continue. It is understood that there will be a meeting with Family and Community in late February 2019 to work through the details of the draft principles for engagement document. To date the parties haven’t been able to agree on a final document. The authors of the above report and its steering group are committed to ensuring the document remains authentic and does not dilute or compromise the voices and concerns expressed by the approximately 100 public housing tenants who participated in the consultation process and which informed the principles document. It is hoped that the document will be finalised soon and will be signed by all parties for implementation across agreed sites. This becomes especially crucial with the release of the Masterplan for Waterloo.

The above blog was prepared for the screening of the film The Eviction and panel discussion at University of NSW Law School on Friday, 1 February 2019.

Painting: 67 Lower Fort St - This is my home (2014 oil on canvas 46 x 61cm)
Painted by Jane Bennett. Email 


On 28 June 2019 The Guardian reported: ‘Sydney's Sirius building to be refurbished after being sold for $150m.’ Check it out at:

Here's a summary of the sales data:

190 sales totalling $759,576,667

Price range for individual sales $1,438,000 to $150m

Median sale price $2.5m

McGrath Real Estate sold properties totalling $518,854,667

Stamp duty for sales $43.37M

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Waterloo SSP: Updates from REDWatch

Some updates from our friends at REDWatch:
Dear REDWatch Members & Supporters & Agencies, 
The long awaited declaration of the Waterloo State Significant Precinct (SSP) happened in a Media Release dated 18 May which was made public on Friday 19 May 2017. The declaration means that master planning for the redevelopment of the Waterloo public housing estate can now start. Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) which owns the estate expect capacity building to continue over the next month or so and for consultation workshops to start towards the end of June/beginning of July. The current relocation date for the first tenants to be moved from the estate has not been pushed back past mid-2018 even though the planning process is expected to take up to 18 months to complete from its commencement. 
Below is what we know from the declaration and the initial release of information by LAHC. 
The SSP declaration covers the entire area of the consolidated Waterloo public including the private property within the boundary of the consolidated estate. NSW Planning and Environment on the State Significant Precincts page for Waterloo spells out the implications for private property holders as “should rezoning take place, future development proposals would be assessed against new and amended planning controls”. The declaration also covers what will happen over the land being compulsorily required for the new underground Waterloo Metro Railway station. This area is now referred to as the Metro Quarter. Concerns have been expressed about the density that might be put above Metro station to help pay for Sydney Metro and the recommendations for what happens on this site will also be part of the SSP assessment. 
You can see the area covered in the 20-hectare precinct in the declaration’s map parts of Waterloo (PDF map, 3.6MB). If you compare this map with the map of the estate and the Metro site resumption on the Central to Eveleigh Waterloo page (reproduced here) you can see the private property areas along Wellington Street and Cope Street between Wellington and John Streets which are not coloured in the UrbanGrowth map. 
UrbanGrowth NSW will participate in master planning across the SSP site. In the Metro Quarter, UrbanGrowth will develop a comprehensive master plan. On the LAHC land it will assist LAHC with technical work involved in developing the master plan for its site. NSW Planning and Environment says that the metro station design and the master plan for the Waterloo estate will be integrated. The statement says FACS will organise a series of master planning workshops for the community, but it is not currently clear who will handle engagement for the private landowners whose properties presumably will not be master planned. The statement on the Communities Plus website makes no reference to the private land within the estate which FACS is master planning and nothing at all has been posted yet by UrbanGrowth since the SSP declaration. NSW Planning and Environment says it will write to property owners within the precinct to formally notify them of the rezoning investigation and explain the SSP process for Waterloo. 
The precinct will now be investigated for rezoning through the State Significant Precincts process. The specific studies to be undertaken over the next 12-18 months are expected to be made public in coming days. Undertakings were given by LAHC that the community will have access to the scope of the studies and will have the opportunity to ask for key issues of concern which are not already included to be added. 
Once the master plan process is completed FACS and UrbanGrowth NSW will submit a State Significant Precinct Study to support the rezoning proposals to NSW Planning and Environment. NSW Planning and Environment and the City of Sydney Council will jointly assess proposals within the State Significant Precinct Study. 
While the City of Sydney Council has been, and will continue to be, involved in within the SSP tent, City of Sydney Council has previously recognised around Central to Eveleigh that it also needs to work with residents so that it can make an informed input into the planning process. 
REDWatch has invited representatives from City of Sydney Council to the REDWatch meeting on Thursday 1st June to present on Density done Well - what does it mean for a redevelopment like Waterloo? 
A forum for Agencies dealing with the Waterloo community will take place at Projects 107, 107 Redfern St on Thursday 25th May, between 12pm and 3.30pm by Inner Sydney Voice (previously Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development). This forum will include input from LAHC on the master planning and is aimed to help agencies respond to their clients concerns heading into master planning. Agency representatives are encouraged to attend a the “Waterloo Redevelopment – Where Do We Start?’ forum. Please RSVP to Thomas at to secure a spot and for catering purposes.
You can find information about various aspects of the Waterloo redevelopment and useful resources on the following websites:
· NSW Planning and Environment: and Ministerial Media Release Waterloo nominated as next state significant precinct 
· Family and Community Service / Land and Housing Corporation’s Communities Plus: 
· Sydney Metro Station component: - There is no site currently for the development above the station. 
· UrbanGrowth NSW Central to Eveleigh: - There is no site currently on the UrbanGrowth site for the Metro Station Site master plan. Please note: UrbanGrowth NSW ( and UrbanGrowth Development Corporation ( are in the process of being restructured. Central to Eveleigh, of which Waterloo is part, will be part of UrbanGrowth Development Corporation answering directly to the Premier rather than the Minister of Planning. 
· Previous Proposals - The previous proposal by the RWA / SMDA for the redevelopment of Redfern and Waterloo public housing can be found on the UGDC site under Draft Built Environment Plan Stage 2 (BEP 2). Land and Housing Corporation did not release the details of its Draft Master Plan from 2011-12, nor was the review by the Government Architect released. What is known from these studies can be found on the REDWatch website through Links to Waterloo Redevelopment History
· Inner Sydney Voice’s Winter 2016 issue – Redeveloping Public Housing (PDF) contains information on the Government framework for the redevelopment. It also contains articles on what can be learnt from previous estate redevelopments and the issues that need to be addressed. You can also see the articles online at
· For information on what is already underway in the lead up to the Waterloo Masterplan see South Sydney Herald’s Who’s who in Waterloo – April 7, 2017 or “Community voices in Waterloo master planning” in Shelter NSW’s March issue of Around the House.
Material from the current redevelopment proposals is being posted on the REDWatch website at Waterloo Public Housing Redevelopment & Metro Station.
... and ...
Just after I pressed send on my earlier email I was advised that LAHC had posted details of consultants and summaries on their Communities Plus website. 
You can see them at the foot of the page at Based on the study numbers the summaries seem to be put together around the Waterloo Estate studies. As mentioned in our earlier email there are differences between the studies for Waterloo Estate and Waterloo Quarter. It is not clear without further checking if the LAHC summary includes details also from the Waterloo Quarter requirements. 
Below are the links to the documents posted by LAHC with a brief description from the document: 
Waterloo Requirements Table - This table provides a list of the Study Requirements and the studies that will be undertaken for the Waterloo precinct 
· Waterloo Summary of Studies - This document provides a summary of each of the studies that will be undertaken to meet the Study set by the Minister for Planning 
· Waterloo Study Requirements Summary – This is a summary of the Study Requirements. 
· Waterloo Consultants Table – This table provides a list of the studies that will be under taken to meet the Requirements and the technical consultants that will carry out the studies according to the Study Requirements. 
· Feedback Form - FACS is asking for feedback on the summary of studies. If you think there is something missing this is your opportunity to say so.

The City of Sydney have advised that at the REDWatch meeting they will deal with the density done well issue in the context of the study requirements. So the REDWatch meeting on Thursday at 6pm at The Factory should be helpful in formulating your response to LAHC on the adequacy of the studies.