Monday, December 9, 2013

Heritage and social housing

According to the common – and wrong – stereotype, social housing properties are boring, ugly or worse, and generally not worth keeping. On the contrary, quite a few social housing properties and social housing estates are of heritage significance.

The NSW Land and Housing Corporation's own register of heritage properties includes over 3300 entries, of which many are for properties that are also listed on the State Heritage Register, or a local council's heritage register.

 (The Strickland Building – public housing in Chippendale, listed as a local heritage item on the Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012)

('The Housing Commission Houses' - public housing in South Granville, listed as a heritage item on the Parramatta Local Environmental Plan 2011)

For more information about heritage and social housing, please check out the following:
  • Shelter NSW's new Shelter Brief, 'Heritage and Social Housing', which unpacks for tenants what heritage means, how heritage in New South Wales is protected, and what the implications of heritage protection are for social housing asset management.
  • The Tenants' Union of NSW's blog post on the Brown Couch about the strange tale of public housing heritage tenancies and their inadvertent exemption from the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Millers Point tenants make their point

Millers Point tenants have made submissions to the NSW State Government as it continues to review social housing in the area.

Two groups have made submissions: the Millers Point Public Housing Tenants Committee (MPPHTC), and the Committee of Residents Elected by Millers Point, Dawes Point and the Rocks (CoRE). They take different approaches, but both are strong testaments to the local community's determination that social housing in Millers Point must be retained. We've read them, and commend them both.

The MPPHTC's submission is straightforward: keep Millers Point as social housing – and, in particular, as public housing. Amongst other things, they make an interesting point about security of tenure and expectations. Long-term tenants at Millers Point – some of them go back many decades, even generations – recall being assured that they should regard their homes as theirs for life. This assurance was given by the previous government landlord of the properties, Maritime Services, when many of the tenants or their families worked in maritime industries or other occupations in what was in some respects a government town. Tenants say they've regard that expectation of security like other people might regard superannuation: as security in their post-work lives.

The CoRE submission also recommends, in the first place, keeping Millers Point as public housing. But CoRE presents an alternative recommendation: if Housing NSW must get out of Millers Point, let tenants stay put and bring a community housing provider in. With the pro bono assistance of the consulting company Sphere, they've crunched the numbers and shown that a community housing provider, with increased rental revenues from tenants' receipt of Commonwealth Rent Assistance, and a limited program of property sales (between 35 and 66 sales over five years, depending on the scenario), could repair the remaining properties to an appropriate standard and manage them as social housing on a sustainable basis.

It is fair to say that not everyone in Millers Point is at ease with the idea of any further property sales, or a different type of social housing provider – but the fact that the CoRE tenants are prepared to do some hard thinking and look at uneasy options says a lot about their commitment to keeping social housing in Millers Point. It is an impressive proposal and deserves further investigation with collaboration from all stakeholders.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Minto redevelopment update

Thanks to our friends at Minto Residents Action Group (MRAG) for this latest update.

"Minto redevelopment is less than halfway through the project – even though on paper the plans are complete and they are just waiting on money to be released. The MRAG believe that we should endeavour to “keep them honest”.  Announced in 2002, started in approx. 2006 and predicted to finish in 2015.  It has already been put back at least 12 months.  Working Together in Minto (a human services project coordinated by HNSW) has withdrawn and the Minto Renewal Forum has ceased.  MRAG have been asked to join the Community Reference Group which will be formed by the new group working in Minto - Macarthur Diversity Services Initiative (MDSI) which so far do not have a worker. Our best alternative is inviting (Renewal, Land and Housing) and (Landcom) to our Minto RAG meetings. They do come when invited."


Over 55/seniors units      - 120

We have 20.    Construction of 60 more units have started, with possibility of further 40 to start depending on funds availability.  With these I believe (but cannot find proof) we were told that each complex would have a community room, even though normally there had to be 24/25 units per complex.  Of the remaining complexes (40 – 20 – 22 and 18) only the one with 40 will have a community room – and the others may have an undercover area for entertaining.  At this stage all will have lifts.

Two bedroom Ballot  - 102

(There were 111 families in ballot)

There are 20 two bedroom cottages completed with 4 more in the late stages –so there are 78 more to come.  Integrated Housing was planned around the parks and social housing tenants were to occupy about ratio 2:3.   Because of difficulty with Integrated Housing they had to change the plans and sell as individual lots meaning that Landcom lost some lots and then because it was 50/50 HNSW gave 4 lots back to Landcom so we are now short 4 houses around Redfern Park.  We were told that these will be added to the South side of Minto.   I am told by the Housing office in Campbelltown (who control the ballot list) that they are in contact with people on the list and there are people who are happy where they are so will not be taking up the offer…. No numbers.  Because some of the two story places around the parks are unsatisfactory for people on the list Housing has had to divert further down the list.  With uncertainty as to funding and timing of construction for 2 bedroom cottages, consideration is being given to use the 2 bedroom seniors as suitable offers for those eligible from the ballot.

Five bedroom homes - approx. 7

None have been started but plans for 4 have been approved on the north side in Gawler Ave.  A fifth cottage will be placed on south side.

Existing 3 and 4 bedroom cottages – approximately 127 with an additional 50 to be sold

Work is in progress on the cottages bounded by Guernsey, Mortimer, Gawler and Benham with a budget of approx. $80,000 per property on average. The families living in these cottages have had to put up with some dreadful times – some were told they were not losing anything only to have workmen in the next day ripping out their gardens. The civil works have dug their yards up to put in a new drainage system and then not connected them to it only to have their properties flood everytime it rains.

Three properties in Piper Way are to be demolished and negotiations were proceeding with the tenants. These will be included in the 50 cottages that are to be sold.
On the other side (Pendergast) it has been deferred for a while and will be done in two different sections. I hope that the journey will be more pleasant for them.  LAHC and UGNSW have advised that lessons learnt from northern side will be used to ensure there is less impact on residents; however, there will be disruptions during construction.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Apollo estate (East Dubbo) to be sold

A different sort of social housing estate redevelopment: public housing tenants at the Apollo estate in East Dubbo have been informed that their houses are to be put on the market for sale to individual buyers. The objective, says the NSW State Government, is to reduce the concentration of social housing in East Dubbo.

(Apollo House)

The Government says that about 60 properties will be sold, and that there are no plans to build any new social housing stock in Dubbo – so it is not just the concentration, but the absolute amount of social housing that will be reduced.

What will become of the tenants? They're invited to consider buying their houses when they come up for sale. The local MP is encouraging them to do so, noting:

Buying a house would bring with it the benefit of the pride of ownership.

Hmm. It looks like a fairly proud bunch of tenants who participated in the recent Building Stronger Communities program, which invested in a range of community planning activities; support services; education, training and employment opportunities; and landscaping and other physical improvements to the estate. This program wrapped up in 2011.

Those not buying can expect to be offered alternative social housing... but where?

If you've any news from the ground at East Dubbo, please let us know.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Millers Point in the news

Millers Point is in the news again, with an excellent article by Tim Barlass in the Sun-Herald that focuses on the residents of Millers Point, and some political and historical context by Evan Jones at New Matilda.

(Millers Point resident Robert Goodsell, 94. You'd like to think that he shouldn't have to worry about being evicted. Photo from the Sun-Herald.)

Not yet in the news is the outcome of the social impact assessment that was conducted recently for NSW Land and Housing Corporation, as part of the NSW State Government's review, announced in October last year, of its continuing ownership of the Millers Point properties. 
We understand that a draft report is with LAHC. The stated intention of the SIA consultant was that the drafted report should be made public, for discussion and feedback, before the final report goes in to LAHC. We look forward with interest to seeing the draft.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Residents’ Voices Book Project

Interested in redevelopments of social housing estates? You may like to keep in touch with the Residents’ Voices Project. 

Residents’ Voices is a global network where social housing residents are the experts.  Two current projects are a website and book.

The Residents’ Voices website provides a resident-led forum for tenants to share their experience and knowledge of being a social or public housing tenant and, where necessary, to challenge the views of non-residents. Through this website you can get involved in a redevelopment debate, contribute to an existing Residents’ Voices project or start a new project. You will have the opportunity to highlight the issues that are important to you and your community and to share your stories with other tenants in different streets, states and countries. The website also has video snap shots.

Residents, community workers and researchers from Inner Sydney, Western Sydney and Chicago are also collaboratively writing a book that challenges the misrepresentations of public housing tenants and estates. This book is about challenging policy assumptions and validating the experiences of residents. 

The book will outline a suite of public housing tenants experiences and observations that critically investigate poverty, place and disadvantage. Drawing on empirical case studies from the US and Australia the contributions will challenge conventional approaches to researching poverty, place and disadvantage. The central aim of the book is to challenge the representations and misrepresentations of public housing tenants and estates by validating the narratives and knowledge of residents.

Over the last decade policy-makers in the US, UK and Australia – often through a public, private or non-government housing manager – have set out to ‘de-concentrate’ poor households. These policy interventions have been justified and undertaken in the absence of conclusive research data about the many drivers of concentrations of disadvantage. International inquiry into poverty, place and disadvantage has been dominated by conventional research methodologies that have failed to determine whether the geographic concentration of disadvantaged households exacerbates disadvantage or contributes to the reproduction of poverty.

When participatory research methodologies are used to collaborate with the residents of so-called ‘disadvantaged places’, questions and definitions of poverty, place and disadvantage are radically restructured. The book will argue for an approach to understanding and addressing disadvantage that draws on the knowledge of the residents themselves.  Currently there is a call out for residents to participate in the book.

For more information about the book project contact Dallas Rogers.  
Telephone: 0432 295 605

The broader university research project that Resident Voices is part of is being supported by the Australian Research Council, St Vincent de Paul Society, The Tenants' Union of NSW, the University of Western Sydney, Flinders University and Centre for Urban Research and Learning at Loyola University, Chicago.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Anzac Parade South: consultation

As we mentioned in our last post the NSW State Government is proposing to increase heights and density along Anzac Parade South.

Kingsford and Maroubra from the air (photo: Bidgee)

Some social housing estates are included in this process.

The Government is about to start consulting with the community on these projects and like Randwick Council, who provided this information in a recent e-news bulletin, we think it is important residents know what is going on and how to be involved.

Find out about the consultation processes in the Draft NSW Urban Activation Precincts Guideline.
    We liked the following in the Draft NSW Urban Activation Precincts Guideline:
      “Community engagement is important when investigating potential changes to a precinct. In addition to the formal public exhibition process, community reference groups may also be established where the Department considers it appropriate. These groups should include a broad membership from the local community. The purpose of these groups will be for representative members of all sections of the community to access information and provide better informed feedback throughout the investigation process. Other community engagement techniques may also be used, tailored to the individual precincts.”
        We think major changes to social housing make it appropriate to have a community reference group. Local communities know what local communities need.

        Monday, June 24, 2013

        South Randwick Redevelopment Developments

        The Anzac Parade South Urban Activation Precinct (UAP) was recently announced by the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. The UAP aims to revitalise existing areas to deliver homes, jobs and infrastructure.
        Maroubra Junction, intersection of Anzac Parade and Maroubra Road ©Department of Planning and Infrastructure

        The result of the process will be a proposed rezoning for some of the precinct. This may include medium or high density apartments within an easy walk of public transport.

        Housing NSW have provided an update on what may or may not happen to 2,500 social housing dwellings in the UAP over the next 20 years. Read more what they say on a factsheet here.

        Yes, it is important that governments and communities plan for the future.  However, it often seems to us at the TU that governments seem to take a much more detailed interest in the lives and homes of its citizens in social housing than other citizens.

        While no one can argue with the need for appropriate development and increased housing, we hope the government agencies involved don't forget that research demonstrates the disturbing effects that dislocation can have for people living with disadvantage, the elderly and those on very low incomes.  The experts on these impacts are the members of the communities effected, whether that is Randwick, Minto, Airds, Erskinville or Riverwood.  We should all remember to listen to them.

        Monday, June 3, 2013

        Erskineville: the redevelopment that wasn't

        When the NSW State Government first embarked on large scale public housing estate redevelopments back in 2002, two estates were first on the block: Minto and Erskineville.

        The long, continuing saga of the redevelopment of Minto is a tale for another day (or days). The tale of Erskineville is very different: here the proposed redevelopment was stopped in its tracks by tenants and neighbouring residents who wouldn't accept the loss of this quiet, green, historic patch of the inner-west, and who convinced the NSW State Government to change its mind.

        The 'Save Erko Estate' campaign is the subject of a documentary film, an excerpt of which appears below – or you can watch the entire film online.

        Also check out the Saving Erko Estate page at Groundswell Coalition.

        Wednesday, May 29, 2013

        The state of the art of estate redevelopment

        Over the last 10 years, estate redevelopment has become an increasingly big thing for Housing NSW – and for the many tenants who have to live with it. Looking ahead, it's only going to get bigger.

        When news breaks that your estate is to be redeveloped, it can be hard to know where you stand. Should I go? Should I come back? Should the redevelopment happen at all? Plans get made and revised. People come and go. Work starts and stops. Promises may be made, and broken.

        The purpose of this blog is to try to keep track of what's happening with estate redevelopment, on the ground in each estate. We'll try to log announcements, events and changes of plans as they happen, and link back to earlier information so you can see how things may have changed.

        In doing so, we'll be taking our information from official public statements and documents by Housing NSW, the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, and the responsible Ministers, from media reports, and from tenants and workers on estates – so please tell us what you know in the comments or by email.

        Hopefully all of us – tenants, advocates, housing officers, Ministers! – will become a bit better informed, and a bit wiser, about how social housing estate redevelopment is actually going, and how it might go better.

        Millers Point

        Millers Point is the site of the first social housing in New South Wales – in 1900, during an outbreak of bubonic plague, the NSW Government resumed the wharves and surrounding land, almost accidentally becoming a landlord to the workers who lived there. Before that it was one of the first suburbs in colonial New South Wales.

        Now the future of social housing in Millers Point is under a cloud – or, in the NSW State Government's words, 'under review'. Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce announced the review in the media late last year, and subsequently confirmed in Parliament that the Government was considering the disposal of 208 social housing properties in and around Millers Point. This would represent all of the social housing in Millers Point and Dawes Point, and would follow the 36 properties already disposed of, or slated for disposal, by the previous State Government.

        As part of the review, the NSW Land and Housing Corporation has engaged a consultant to conduct a social impact assessment (SIA). We understand that a preliminary report from the SIA may be made around the middle of this year, with the final report to come later in the year. As for the review itself: we don't know when that will conclude.

        One thing is clear already: there is very strong feeling amongst tenants that no-one should have to leave their homes and that social housing must be maintained in and around Millers Point. In February a packed meeting of tenants elected a committee – the Committee of Residents Elected by Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks, or 'CoRE' – to represent their interests in the review process. Tenants can contact CoRE by email: coremillerspoint[at]gmail[dot]com.

        A bit more background. The social housing at Millers Point has an unusual history – quite apart from its genesis in the black plague. For decades the properties were owned by the Maritime Services Board, and were transferred to the Department of Housing in the 1980s. And because of this unusual history, the buildings are unusual too.

        Many of them are listed on the State Heritage Register. About 50 of the properties were used at some time as boarding houses; in fact, after the Department of Housing took over, 35 boarding houses continued to operate under long-term leases. The last of those leases ended in 2009; since then, some have been managed by a community housing organisation, Bridge Housing; some have been let to individuals; some have been left vacant; and some have been disposed of. Late last year (and apparently separately from the current review), the Land and Housing Corporation lodged applications with the City of Sydney to change the use of its remaining boarding houses to individual occupation, ahead of their disposal.

        About the disposals that have already happened, or that have been slated to happen. In 2006, the State Government announced that 16 vacant properties would be put up for sale to private owners – actually, not quite sold, but rather disposed on 99-year leases. Of the 16, 10 were former boarding houses. Proceeds from the disposals were supposed to be used to fund social housing acquisitions in the inner west. In 2010, a second tranche of disposals was announced – 20 vacant properties this time, and they will include at least some former boarding houses – but we don't know when these disposals will actually take place. Again, proceeds were supposed to go to social housing in the inner west... giving the troubling impression that the same benefit (more social housing in the west) keeps getting trotted out for each new lot of disposals. A proper accounting of the disposals and acquisitions has not be done.

        The TU is in contact with CoRE and will present some of their work on the future of social housing in Millers Point in another post soon.

        In the meantime, why not have a look around this wonderful neighbourhood yourself, either on foot or via youtube.


        Riverwood North

        We commence our first round-up of estate redevelopments with Riverwood North.

        This is a redevelopment of about 150 public housing dwellings – mostly bedsits – in Washington Avenue, Riverwood, which are to be replaced by new, higher density buildings comprising about 150 social housing units, and 500 units for sale. The newly-built social housing units will be managed by St George Community Housing; the developer is Payce Communities.

        Announced in September 2010, but talked about for a few years before that, the redevelopment is planned to take 10 years to complete. So far, all the tenants of affected buildings have moved out to other social housing premises, the old buildings have been demolished, and two new high-rises have been built. These are due to be handed over to St George in the next few months, which will let them as over-55s social housing. We understand St George and Housing NSW are getting in touch now with tenants of the old buildings to give them first option on moving back (but they'll have to pay their own moving costs). After that they'll offer tenancies to over-55s on the Housing Pathways register.

        The next stage of work will be the demolition of the old senior citizens centre, and the construction of a third building – to contain a new senior citizens centre, a library and a mix of social housing and privately owned units (to be sold by Payce).

        We understand from those on the ground that many of the tenants who moved out went from bedsits to new units with separate bedrooms, and that they were happy with that, and that Payce has been working to engage with the community by getting involved with the local school and community events.

        So far so good.