Monday, January 25, 2016

Communities Plus update

A paper released by the NSW Government in relation to the tender process for Communities Plus has revealed new details about the scheme. The document, published on NSW e-tendering and entitled 'Expressions of Interest: First Six Sites of the Communities Plus Program', is intended for developers and community housing providers with an interest in participating in the scheme. It concerns the sites at Gosford, Warwick Farm, Glendale, Seven Hills, Telopea, and Tweed Heads. A standalone equivalent is expected to be released for the larger Macquarie Park site. 

The Communities Plus Telopea site

Build characteristics

The paper most comprehensively discusses build characteristics. It describes the project as consisting of "medium and high density" construction. At present, the Seven Hills, Telopea, and Warwick Farm blocks are zoned for high density residential, Glendale and Tweed Heads are zoned for medium density residential, whilst Gosford is designated mixed use. It is provided further that The program is predominantly seeking one and two bedroom dwellings as social housing, with a preference for more two bedroom dwellings. A number of dual key dwellings could be attractive as they provide greater flexibility.” 

Regarding the quality of residences to be delivered, the paper states that “as a minimum, the social housing will be required to meet the Silver Level of the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines as published by Liveable Housing Australia.” Liveable Housing Australia describes itself as a "not-for-profit partnership between community and consumer groups, government and the residential building industry". Its primary function is to "advocate the mainstream adoption of liveable housing design principles in all new homes..." - especially housing that "better respond[s] to the changing needs and abilities of people over their lifetime". It has not made its housing design guidelines publicly available. 

The residences constructed will also incorporate energy efficient design features; “Passive environmental design, which maximise solar access, orientation and cross flow ventilation to reduce energy heating, cooling, lighting and clothes drying costs...will be a requirement”.

Commercial arrangements

The paper also addresses anticipated commercial arrangements between LAHC, developers, and community housing providers - including the overarching commercial objectives of the project. LAHC will seek to optimise its commercial return for the land it contributes to the project, whilst adding to the overall supply of social housing and "seamlessly integrating" social, affordable, and private market housing.

The paper contemplates the manner in which the Government will dispose of and/or retain the sites earmarked for development in some detail. Although there will be no mandatory commercial structure, it outlines two "non-binding" arrangements. Under 'Contract for Sale of Land', LAHC would concurrently "offer a Contract for the Sale of Land to sell the site and a Contract for the Sale of Land to purchase the completed social housing dwellings.” Under 'Project Delivery Agreement (PDA)', "LAHC would retain ownership of the land until the project is completed and would appoint a Proponent to develop the site at the Proponent's cost. The proponent earns a return through a development fee equal to the proceeds of sale...[and] will be responsible for and accept all risk selling the private dwellings".

The affordable housing component of Communities Plus developments is also discussed. The Government anticipates that affordable residences will be owned or controlled by the developers, and managed by a registered community housing provider. Further, “it is not intended the value of land contributed by LAHC will fund the affordable housing component.” These residences will be managed according to Department of Family and Community Service guidelines as to what constitutes affordable rental housing. 

The paper also notes that parties contracted to construct and manage the sites will not be able to draw on funding from other NSW Government housing initiatives, such as the Social and Affordable Housing Fund

Monday, January 18, 2016

More on Millers Point

On January 14th 2016 the Sydney Morning Herald published an opinion piece by Professor Alan Morris, called "Millers Point residents deserve compassion". It points out that in making its decision to sell off public housing in Millers Point, the NSW Government ignored a report it asked for on the potential impact of the sales on the older residents in that community:
The report drew on a Swedish study that examined the mortality rates of 22,579 older people who had moved or not moved. The authors found that there was no difference in the mortality rates of people who had moved voluntarily and those who had not moved, but they did find "an increased risk of death among those who are exposed to urban renewal, both in the case of temporary evacuation and permanent moves".
Responses the the article drew on the rich heritage of the community, such as this letter to the editor from Dawes Point resident Chris Hinkley (published here):
Retain unique village toonlet - The government has achieved 82 per cent of the relocation of tenants from Millers Point ("Millers point residents deserve more compassion", January 15). Sales of the properties have greatly exceeded expectations. The government should now be more than satisfied with this outcome, and negotiate with the community on how to keep the remainder of the tenants in this heritage-listed, living-heritage community. Retaining this community is essential to keeping a rare example of our social history, which teaches us about our past and who we are as a people. This would be a win-win situation, with the government having the money to build new public housing and for Sydney to retain that unique village, registered as "living heritage".Chris Hinkley Dawes Point
... And this post on the Save Millers Point Facebook Page:
Just a few years ago Housing NSW’s own publication, Millers Point Oral History Project, reported: ‘Millers Point … has a very integrated community who love living there and have a sense of belonging and allegiance to the place. … The residents have a rich reservoir of memories of living at the Point, going, in some cases, as far back as six generations. They were born, worked, lived and died in the houses at Millers Point. They also have a strong sense of history and heritage. It’s a community within a community where everyone knew each other through work and place of living ...’ But today the same Department is destroying this community, because suddenly the properties are worth gold. But it’s not too late for the NSW Government to pull back and give these older residents the option of staying.
This prompted an interesting discovery. Until at least October 2015 a link to a report on the Millers Point Oral History Project could be found on the FACS Housing website - but it now seems to have been removed.

Perhaps it didn't survive the recent redesign of the site?

In any case, the Millers Point Oral History Project report will not be lost to a black hole in the internet - it can be found here. And since making this discovery, the curator of has undertaken to upload the project so that it may never be forgotten again. We understand it may take some time for all of the information to be uploaded, so it's worth bookmarking the site and coming back for another look some time down the line.

For more background and commentary from the TU regarding the sell-off of public housing in Millers Point and The Rocks, visit these links here and here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Locals respond to Waterloo announcement

Local community organisations, politicians, and the media have made statements in response to the NSW Government's recent announcement that Waterloo is to be extensively redeveloped. Much of it is focused on the impact to the suburb's social housing tenants, and the public housing portfolio in NSW.

Aerial view of Waterloo

Community services

The Factory Community Centre auspices a range of social and community services for residents of Waterloo and Redfern. Many of their clients are public housing tenants. They are also based out of a Waterloo property owned by NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC). 

The centre's statement welcomed Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard's announcement that there would be no loss of social housing dwellings in Waterloo, noting an "increase in social housing stock is desperately needed given the length of the current waiting list for public housing." It also acknowledged the Minister's assurance that relocated public housing residents would be allowed to return to Waterloo, and that services operating out of LAHC properties would not be evicted. However, the Centre was critical of the Government's failure to consult with it prior to announcing the project; "...again we find ourselves in the position that the community will be consulted after the decision has already been made."

Redfern Legal Centre is a Community Legal Centre whose catchment area includes the Waterloo area. Its services include the specialist Inner Sydney Tenants' Service. The Centre's statement expresses much the same concerns as Factory Community Centre; "These [concerns] include the lack of consultation with public housing tenants about the new plans and the concern that often final plans do not match assurances given at the outset. We hope the current and any future government honour commitment that there will be no reduction in social housing, all current tenants will be given the opportunity to return to the area and that the relocations will be done in a calm and considered way."

REDWatch is a community group based in Redfern, Waterloo, Eveleigh, and Darlington, with a longstanding interest in local social housing issues. In a statement, REDWatch questioned how the Government would ensure positive outcomes for current public housing tenants out of the redevelopment; "...where does the Minister propose to temporarily relocate the residents displaced during the construction of the new development?" The group asked further, "If tenants are to be moved from public housing to either affordable or community housing, how does the Minister propose to guarantee their existing tenancy and rental arrangements?" REDWatch is also collating public statements made by significant figures concerning the project, here

NSW politicians

Waterloo is located mostly within the NSW Electoral District of Heffron. The Member for Heffron, Ron Hoenig (ALP), has not made public comment on the redevelopment. A small section of northern Waterloo is located in the Electoral District of Newtown. The Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong (Greens), did issue a statement concerning the project. Ms. Leong says that the Government must ensure there is no decrease in the number of social housing residents in Waterloo, rather than simply provide for no decrease in dwellings; "Whilst we acknowledge the Government's commitment that the number of social housing dwellings will be maintained in the new development, we need to ensure that these dwellings will continue to house the same number of residents...As a minimum we need a commitment that there will be no reduction in the number of bedrooms or number of residents that can be housed." Ms. Leong's statement also says the area needs more social housing;  "Our community needs a significant investment in affordable housing, which needs to come on top of any commitment to maintain existing public housing..." 

NSW Greens spokesperson for Housing, Social Housing and Homelessness, Jan Barham MLC, issued a statement echoing Ms. Leong's call for more social housing; "With almost 60,000 people on the waiting list for social housing in NSW it's not enough to maintain existing numbers of social housing properties. The redevelopment around Waterloo is a prime opportunity to provide more inner-city social housing..." 

The Shadow Minister for Social Housing, Tania Mihailuk MP, published a comment on her Facebook page. It reads, in full, "On the 8th day before Christmas this cold and callous Govt has announced that 4000 people in Waterloo will have their homes torn down. This Govt simply wants to make money out of these sites - the winners are investors and developers yet again." 

Local politicians 

Waterloo is located within the City of Sydney Local Government Area. Councillor Linda Scott (ALP) issued a comment calling for the interests of public housing tenants to be protected throughout the redevelopment process; "The urban renewal of Waterloo...must be done with great sensitivity, in-depth community consultation, and with a commitment to invest in infrastructure...Current public housing tenants in Waterloo affected by these plans must be given iron-clad assurances of returning to the upgraded social housing dwellings." In a blog post on the announcement, Councillor Irene Doutney (Greens) said, "I will be scrutinising these plans closely to ensure that public housing remains in Waterloo."

The City of Sydney itself has not made public comment on the announcement. However, in its Housing Issues Paper published in April 2015, it identifies a redevelopment of Waterloo as one of four "Critical one off opportunities to delivering substantial [social and affordable housing] supply in the inner city."

Federal politicians 

Waterloo is located in the federal electorate of Sydney. The Member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek MP (ALP), has not made public comment on the announcement. Ms. Plibersek was also Housing Minister from December 2007 to September 2010 - the first time the Ministry had existed as a standalone portfolio since 1994. The position was abolished following the 2013 election. 

In September 2015, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull created the first Cities and The Built Environment Ministry at the federal level of Government. Prior to his resignation from Cabinet, the former Minister Jamie Briggs MP did not make any comment on the announcement. Nor did Shadow Cities Minister Anthony Albanese MP. 

News media

The Sydney Morning Herald published a masthead editorial which addresses the housing and tenancy ramifications of the announcement at some length

"Some potential problems need to be overcome to make this an urban renewal success. Existing public housing tenants will be relocated temporarily. This is a difficult logistical task and an emotionally fraught one for long-time residents. It is easy to forget that for all the bad reputation of the Waterloo tower blocks, most of the people who live there are law abiding, productive citizens. The key will be bringing them along with the process, thereby allaying their fears that they are being driven out for the sake of what one long term resident has called a "yuppie invasion"... But given the process is being conducted over two decades, future governments will be under enormous pressure to reduce the proportion of public or affordable housing and sell it for revenue."