Friday, November 28, 2014

New patron of Friends of Millers Point: Jack Mundey

Reproduced from the Friends of Millers Point news page:

Jack Mundey becomes Patron

Legendary Green Bans Campaigner Jack Mundey has been named Patron of the Friends of Millers Point ahead of this week’s Save Public Housing Rally at NSW Parliament House.

“The community has again turned to Jack Mundey for support, and we are delighted to announce that Jack Mundey has agreed to be the Patron of the Friends of Millers Point,” said Kelli Haynes, Convenor of the Friends of Millers Point.

“We certainly once again need people across the community to rally behind Jack and the Friends of Millers Point to save the people and the heritage of The Rocks, Millers Point and Dawes Point.

“Not only are the residents at risk, but also the purpose-built worker and social housing constructed in this area throughout the 20th century,” Ms Haynes said.

“We believe most of the workers’ accommodation will be lost, including the terraces of Windmill Street, the flats of High Street and most disturbingly, the Sirius Apartments which were built as a direct result of the Green Bans.

“The Rocks Green Ban was only lifted in order to allow the building of the Sirius Apartments, which now stand as a monument to the power of workers and residents to join together and shape the environment in which they live.

“The State Government needs to come up with a better plan for public housing than turfing vulnerable people out of an area many have lived in throughout their lives.”


For more about Friends of Millers Point, visit their website and sign up for their newsletter. Other tenant groups: check out Friends of Millers Point for ideas about getting your local community informed and organised.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New overseer for Millers Point and The Rocks sell-off

Minister Upton has announced that Dr Owen Donald has been appointed the role of 'Millers Point Independent Facilitator', replacing Lynelle Briggs.

Dr Donald has a lot of experience in housing policy. We hope he'll see that there are better alternatives to the present program – alternatives that keep elderly and long-term tenants housed, that don't destroy a whole community, and that don't pose the same threat to our heritage.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Urban Activation Precincts explained

Just a quick note: our colleagues at Shelter NSW have produced a handy paper on Urban Activation Precincts.

Friday, August 22, 2014

First sales at Millers Point

This post was first published on Thursday August 21st, after the first Millers Point property was auctioned off by the NSW Government. It will be updated from time to time as subsequent properties are sold.

Last night the NSW State Government made the first sale in its sell-off of social housing at Millers Point.

The sale price – $1.9 million – was well above the price guide given in the marketing campaign ($1 million, subsequently revised to above $1.3 million). This may encourage the Government. Really, it should encourage the Government to consider again the alternative proposal put by the residents' group, CoRE.

This alternative would see a few dozen properties sold, with the proceeds used to properly renovate the rest, then transfer their management to community housing. The lower maintenance costs for renovated properties, plus the additional Commonwealth Rent Assistance revenue, would put social housing in Millers Point on a sustainable basis.

To the extent that the results of one auction can be relied on, it strengthens CoRE's 'best case' scenario for a limited program of 35 sales of already vacant properties.

Wednesday 27th August: a second Millers Point property was sold at auction last night, for the price of $2.56million. This is more or less $1million above the suggested price guide. Residents staged a protest outside the auctioning real estate agents' office. The sale and protest have been reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

'Renewal' Projects - new research on their impact

Shelter NSW has just released a new Shelter Brief on the issues for tenants in public housing 'renewal' projects.

The redevelopment or “renewal” of public housing estates has been a growing feature of the Australian social housing landscape. New South Wales is no exception to this pattern, with a number of renewal projects either under way or on the drawing board.

These renewal projects have a substantial impact on public housing tenants, and on their communities. But all too often, tenants’ needs have not been “front and centre” in planning for renewal.

This paper attempts to bring together a substantial proportion of the Australian research relating to the impact of renewal projects on tenants.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Macquarie Park and Ivanhoe estate factsheet

The Department of Planning and Environment has been taking submissions on the Urban Activation Precinct at Herring Road, Macquarie Park, which includes the Ivanhoe estate. We'll follow up on those in a future post.

For the record, here's a factsheet from the Government's Macquarie Park Taskforce, which makes a few commitments in relation to the Ivanhoe estate.

It states:
  • If the Ivanhoe estate is redeveloped, the same number of social housing homes will be built. There will be no loss of social housing in the area.
  • If the estate is redeveloped, existing social housing residents will be relocated to new or vacant social housing that is suited to their needs.
  • Where tenants are relocated out of the estate to allow redevelopment to take place, they will have the option of moving back to the estate provided that a new dwelling is available that is also suited to their needs.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Six Millers Point properties to go on the market

The NSW State Ministers for Family and Community Services and for Finance announced in the weekend media that six social housing premises at Millers Point will go on the market shortly.

The properties are identified, oddly enough, in the UK-based Daily Mail (graphic below).

In making the announcement, Minister Upton said:

'For every house sold in Millers Point, you could build three houses in many other suburbs in Sydney.'

This gives the impression that for every house sold, three will be built – for a net gain of two houses per sale. However, the NSW State Government has not committed to any such increase in the stock of social housing. In a briefing on the State Budget, the FACS Secretary stated that whether there would be any net increase in social housing would be 'line ball'.

On the sales process, Finance Minister Perrottet said:

The properties in Millers Point are of important historical significance for the people of New South Wales and we don’t want to rush the planning or sales processes....
We want to maintain as much of the culture and aesthetics of the Millers Point precinct as we can, and it will be incumbent on prospective buyers to preserve and respect the history of the area.

'We don't want to rush'? The NSW State Government proposes to sell 214 State-heritage listed properties in 18 months. We think something has got to give.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Confusion in Macquarie Park

The Herring Road Urban Activation Precinct is causing some confusion amongst residents, with radical proposals around rent setting rumoured to be under consideration by the state government, but no confirmation of anything yet.

See for instance, this article which discusses the rumour of social housing tenants on full market rent within 5 years. Here is another article
Plans for the physical structure have been unveiled and comments form the community are sought by 10 August 2014.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Agitated at Claymore

Julie Foreman, Tenants' Union Executive Officer and previously a community worker at Campbelltown, revisits the social housing estate at Claymore.

I was at Claymore in southern Sydney  last week. I had worked with the community some five years ago and have remained a friend of many of the active volunteers there.  As I drove into Claymore I passed a building that had housed in succession, at least seven different NGOs over a 14 year period. 

I had reason to reflect on this because I was attending a celebration of the Claymore Community Laundromat and Coffee Shop which had been opened for over 10 years.  The Laundromat is managed and staffed by community members.  It took two years of development work by the community before it even opened but it has stood the test of time.  St Vincent de Paul Society provides a small amount of funds to enable a part-time volunteer coordinator to be employed.

The Laundromat does many things. It provides practical services: washing machines, dryers and a coffee shop.  It also is a gathering place, a place to share community information, social support and training.

I think all of us in government and community organisations have much to learn from Claymore’s Laundromat.  Claymore is also a public housing estate.  When attempting to engage in community building with public or social housing tenants, government and non government organisations think they have the answers and know what processes to follow.  I think the community knows the solution and how to achieve it in a far more practical and sustainable way.  Our job is to listen, really listen and support the local knowledge and skill. If we want to learn how to do this I am sure the women of Claymore would be happy to teach us.

While in Claymore I also caught up with representatives from the local resident group who provided me with an up date on the latest ‘redevelopment’ proposals for the estate.  I have lost count of the number of plans for Claymore that have stopped and started over the last 10 years.

Anyway, the current plan is to sell off land and rebuild private medium density dwellings and reduce the number of social housing dwellings.  The social housing will not be replaced elsewhere. The community were not consulted on this prior to the announcement by the then Minister for Family and Community Service (FACS), Prue Goward.
Urban Growth [previously Landcom] are responsible for the redevelopment and have made a Development Application (DA) to Campbelltown City Council. They and FACS have established a Claymore Information Group (CIG) which residents and community workers attend.  Residents were recruited with the express purpose of being precinct representatives.  The representatives have to promise not to talk to media and are told not to pass all information onto their precinct residents.  In addition the information provided to members is often vague or incorrect and meetings are cancelled at short notice. So questions asked by residents of their representatives go unanswered. This has created much frustration for the representatives and residents, forcing some reps to resign or feel coopted. Other local community groups report feeling excluded from the process.

The residents are not against redevelopment; in fact they believe it is necessary.  It is the process that concerns them and the decisions made as a result.

Currently Urban Growth  is renovating and updating the areas around the precinct that will house private residents, even though other precincts were due for, and indeed more in need of, renovation.  This need had been identified in earlier consultations and plans.
Urban Growth has asked residents involved with the process to sign a submission to Council supporting all aspects of the DA.  In fact they provided a letter for them to sign.  The letter mentioned in detail the community infrastructure to be improved –a  shopping centre upgrade, bus route improvements etc but was silent on issues such as social housing, design or density.  Urban Growth advised residents that signing the submission would expedite the infrastructure that the community wanted.

Of course they also said that anyone could make their own submission.  However I imagine that those who didn’t sign might feel they were letting their community down.  

Such processes do nothing to build community trust or to lead to best outcomes.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Kamira Court, Villawood still waiting.

  • Frances Sacco  
  • Fairfield Advance  
June 12, 2014 9:51AM  
VACANT land in Villawood capable of housing 280 units lies idle while low-income earners in the Fairfield area wait more than 10 years for public housing. 
The 1.5ha site at Kamira Court, which is owned by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, was announced as the location for a combination of public housing and privately-owned low-cost housing in February 2011.
Three years on and a Family and Community Services spokesman said the land was now part of a strategic review into its property portfolio.
“The future of Kamira Court will be carefully considered as part of this process,” he said.
Western Sydney Housing Coalition convener Simon Emsley said the time for review was over.
“I don’t think they should waste time wondering what to do with it — I think they should just get on and build it,” he said.
The previous Labor government announced 111 social housing units for elderly tenants, as well as 169 privately-owned units with affordable rental prices.
“I think it’s about government priorities and that’s not unique to this government,” Mr Emsley said.
He said the need for public housing in Fairfield and surrounding areas was acute, because it was the last place many people could afford before being forced to go to the bush.
A Family and Community Services spokesman pointed to 27 new social housing dwellings built in the Fairfield area since November last year.

A Fairfield Council spokeswoman said the council would continue to support development of sites like Kamira Court and the Bonnyrigg housing estate to promote affordable private housing and social housing.

Friday, May 30, 2014

'Housing lotto': relocations from Millers Point and The Rocks.

Here's Ten News on the 'choice-based lettings' system – introduced to relocate tenants from Millers Point and The Rocks – in action.

If you're a social housing tenant at Millers Point and The Rocks and you've any questions or concerns about your housing, please speak with a tenants advocate from Redfern Legal Centre.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Information about relocations from Millers Point and The Rocks

From the long version of Minister Goward's media release announcing the sale of social housing at Millers Point and The Rocks:

Approach to the relocations process

Each tenant in Millers Point will be individually visited and notified that a relocations officer has been assigned to them and that an appointment will be made to discuss their relocation needs.
Specialist relocations officers are experienced staff members from the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) who have experience of successfully relocating tenants, including older tenants and tenants with special needs. They are senior client services staff who have been selected for the role.

Initially, each tenant will be visited to undertake a housing needs assessment. This is a detailed assessment which involves understanding the individual needs of each member of the household and discussing their preferences for relocation in terms of location and the type of housing they need. Any special needs are identified in detail, including any medical needs, mental health issues, disabilities and other complex needs.

The specialist relocations officer will liaise with the family and friends of tenants if they wish for this and will also work with support services. The same officer works with the tenant throughout the process of relocation. The officer draws up a relocations plan for the tenant and their family which outlines the desired location and type of housing they will need, any adaptations they will need to their future property because of disability and the desired timing of their relocation, taking account of factors such as school term times and the availability of alternative accommodation.

The relocations plan outlines the financial assistance which will be available to cover costs arising from the relocation in line with existing Housing NSW policy. The same financial assistance will be offered to relocating community housing tenants.

The specialist relocations officer will help the tenant to view alternative properties if they cannot do this themselves. When an offer of alternative accommodation is accepted, the relocations officer will help the tenant to organise removalists and other aspects of the move such as dealing with utilities providers. The specialist relocations officer will help the tenant to establish support services in their new location, will provide them with information on community facilities in their new location and will visit them after their move to check how they have settled in and follow up on any outstanding issues.

Where there are tenants who wish to be relocated close to each other, for example long standing neighbours who provide support to each other, every effort will be made to accommodate this.
Where a tenant has disabilities, the specialist relocations officer will arrange for an Occupational Therapist to visit the new home with the tenant and make recommendations for adaptations to the property.

Attracting tenants to alternative locations

Under FACS policy, tenants are entitled to two offers of alternative accommodation. For the Millers Point relocations, FACS will use a new approach in addition to making offers to individual tenants.
As properties become available in locations identified by relocating tenants, these will be openly displayed in a location in Millers Point with photographs and supporting information. Open house sessions will be held in those properties.

Tenants will be able to visit several properties and several tenants will be able to visit the same property. Providing that the size of property is appropriate for the tenant’s household, the first tenant to accept the property will become the new tenant.

Some properties, such as those which are fully adapted for people with disabilities will need to be excluded from this process to make sure they are allocated to people who have specific needs.
Involvement of FACS, Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) and Aged Care Assessment Teams Where a tenant is elderly or frail or a tenant has complex needs such as mental illness, the relocations officer will be a Specialist Client Service Officer with experience in working with clients with special needs. Experienced staff from FACS-ADHC will also be engaged to work with these clients. People with mobility problems will generally be offered accommodation which has a lift or is on the ground floor.

If modifications such as grab rails are required, the Specialist Client Service officer will link with an Occupational Therapist to provide an assessment of their needs and arrange to have the necessary work completed, should elderly clients require additional supports to allow them to age in place, such as shopping assistance, FACS-ADHC staff will link these services to the new accommodation.

Elderly and vulnerable clients will also be offered a relocation package which includes the removalist packing and unpacking their belongings. Contact will also be made with family and support providers and the relocations officer will help the client to re-establish support services in their new location. In the case of Aboriginal clients, Specialist Client Service Officers will draw upon the skills of existing Aboriginal Specialist staff.

If an elderly tenant appears to be struggling to live independently, the Specialist Client Service Officer will visit them, and that officer has links to the Aged Care Assessment Team and can make a referral for a specialist assessment to be undertaken to determine whether Commonwealth funded support packages should be provided.

Reimbursement of costs

Tenants’ reasonable costs of moving will be reimbursed as per FACS-Housing NSW policy. This will include removalist fees, utility connections, redirection of mail and new school uniforms where children have to change schools.

Relocating community housing tenants will also be eligible for these payments. Consistent with current policy, tenants will also be reimbursed for improvements they have made to their homes as long as those improvements were approved, subject to a reduction for fair wear and tear.
Voluntary relocations

If required, Housing NSW can use its powers under the Residential Tenancy Act 2010 to terminate a tenancy if more than two offers of alternative accommodation are refused by a tenant. However, every effort will be made to ensure that it won’t be necessary to go to the Tribunal by offering well- presented and maintained accommodation wherever possible.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sirius and Gloucester Street terraces to be sold off

There's lots to say about the sell-off of public housing housing at Millers Point – some initial things we've said in the Tenants' Union's media release, which can be found over at the Brown Couch.

Here's another thing: this announcement is the first mention of selling off properties in The Rocks – particularly the Sirius building, and the Gloucester Street terrace houses. As far as we can tell, these properties were not part of the State Government's review of social housing in and around Millers Point.


(Gloucester Street)

When the review was announced at the end of 2012, local MP Alex Greenwich asked in Parliament:

1.     How many properties are being reviewed for potential sale?
2.     How many social housing properties are being reviewed for potential sale?

– to which then Minister Greg Pearce replied:

(1) to (2) Up to 208 properties are being considered. All 208 properties are social housing properties.
(See page 43 of of the 'Questions and Answers' document linked here.)

208 properties – today's announcement is for 293 properties to be sold, including the 79 units in Sirius and the six duplexed terrace houses in Gloucester Street.

So almost 50 per cent more properties are to be sold than were advised as being under review.

This is unfair to tenants in The Rocks, and to all who made submissions to the review.


Goward announces Millers Point, The Rocks sell-off

Family and Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, has announced that all public housing properties at Millers Point – and the public housing in the Sirius building and in Gloucester Street, The Rocks – will be sold.

The text of the Minister's media release follows. More from the Tenants' Union soon.

Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward announced today high value public housing property assets on the Sydney Harbour foreshore will be sold with the proceeds to be reinvested into the social housing system across NSW.

293 properties in Millers Point, Gloucester Street and the Sirius building in The Rocks will be sold, due to the high cost of maintenance, significant investment required to improve properties to an acceptable standard, and high potential sale values.

"Maintenance on properties in Millers Point costs more than four times the average for public housing dwellings in NSW. In the last 2 years alone, nearly $7 million has been spent maintaining this small number of properties. That money could have been better spent on building more social housing, or investing in the maintenance of public housing properties across the state,” Ms Goward said.

"When the previous Government began selling off public housing in Millers Point in 2008 it let other properties here fall into disrepair. That has now left us with repair bills as high as $800,000 to restore some of these terrace houses to heritage standard.

"The community expects us to invest in a sustainable social housing system which supports disadvantaged people across the whole state. Our ability to do that is severely limited if we sink millions of dollars into a small number of properties," Ms Goward said.

“Subsidies to tenants in the last year alone reached $8.89 million, with individual tenants receiving subsidies as high as $44,000 per annum. This compares to subsidies of $8,000 per year in Campbelltown, $7,000 in Gosford, and $11,000 in Wollongong. For every subsidised tenancy in Millers Point, the Government could assist 5 tenants in Warrawong, or 3.5 tenants in Newcastle or Minto.

“I recognise some tenants have lived in public housing in Millers Point for decades, and moving to a new location may be difficult. This decision was not taken lightly, but it is the right decision in the interest of a sustainable, fair social housing system which currently has more than 57,000 families on the waiting list.

“A team of more than 40 Housing NSW staff is already on the ground talking to tenants. Over the next three months a specialist relocations team will work with each and every tenant individually to understand their needs and work with them through their relocation. Every tenant will be offered reasonable alternative accommodation. All reasonable costs of moving, including reconnecting utilities will be covered,” Ms Goward said.
The project will be driven by former Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs AO GAICD, and is expected to run for two years. Ms Briggs will report directly to the Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services, Michael Coutts-Trotter.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Claymore updates

Claymore has been in the news a couple of times in the last week or so.

An artists impression of the first two stages of a Claymore renewal project. Impression:
An artists impression of the first two stages of a Claymore renewal project. Impression: UrbanGrowth NSW

First there was this report talking about knocking down buildings in 'a bid to lure new residents'. Whilst there will be new privately sold homes, there's no mention on whether there will be any retention or even increase in public housing. The residents interviewed, and even Ms Goward, all mention the local pride and the community. Unfortunately, which can't be removed from the housing tenants who live there! It would be a shame to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We also wonder what liaison has been undertaken with the people of Claymore who have had so many changes, plans and dead ends over last number of years.

Then the Daily Telegraph published this story discussing the renewal. The story prompted a comment from local Macarthur public housing tenant, Jen Rignold.  "I am an active tenant volunteer who derives her pride from the people in our community.  Bricks and mortar are important but are not the only consideration.  How people are treated and the relationships we continue to build with each other have a far greater impact on pride.  Ask tenants what is needed and we will work with you"

Well said, Jen!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Randwick UAPs 'on hold'

We mentioned a few months ago the Urban Activation Precincts (UAPs) covering parts of Randwick/Kensington and Anzac Parade that include social housing estates.

Both those UAPs are now on hold, with NSW Planning and Infrastructure promising to return with further plans and consultation early this year. See the Herald's report for comment by various interests.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On the lookout for social housing strategies

The Auditor-General's report in July last year set out the context for much of the present interest in social housing redevelopment (we discussed the report in this post on the Brown Couch). The report also recommended Housing NSW and the NSW Land and Housing Corporation produce some policy statements on social housing strategy in this State – and recommended some dates for their production.

Keep a lookout for movement on the following recommendations:

  • HNSW should, by December 2013, complete a social housing policy that aligns tenant management with emerging client need.  
  • LAHC should... by December 2013, complete and release an asset portfolio strategy that delivers housing at an appropriate standard and shows how future new supply housing will align with emerging client need.  
  • LAHC in consultation with HNSW by December 2013, finalise the government’s long-term strategy for managing public housing estates to deliver a sustainable reduction in disadvantage on estates. 
  • HNSW and LAHC should... by June 2014, develop organisational plans that are clearly linked to their social housing policy, asset portfolio strategy and estate strategy including:
− gap analysis
− objectives
− targets
− funding
− performance measures and progress reporting.