You heard it here!
On Saturday 28 March NSW will go to the polls to elect a new State Government. Hands Off Glebe asked the candidates for the seat of Balmain — Jamie Parker (Greens), Verity Firth (ALP) and Lyndon Gannon (Liberal) — 9 questions about the future of public housing in Glebe. Here are their replies.
JAMIE PARKER v VERITY FIRTH
- What should happen to the vacant land in Cowper Street?
Jamie – I will continue to advocate for public housing to be built – and soon – on the vacant land in Cowper Street.
Verity – We cannot allow this rare opportunity to expand affordable housing options in the Inner West to be stalled any longer or lost altogether. It is time to get on with the job of redeveloping the site for the purpose that was intended for it. While I believe a mixture of private, affordable and public dwellings is the right approach and would produce the best social outcomes, the priority of any proposed development must be the provision of accommodation for low income and disadvantaged individuals and families.
- Should any of the Cowper Street land be sold to private interests?
Jamie – No, I do not support any part of this land being sold to private interests.
Verity – I would support a development application for the site that provided a greater proportion of the housing mix for affordable housing and public housing.
Our comment: At a rally on 25 November 2014, Verity said there should be 100% public and affordable housing on the site. What has caused her to change her mind?
- How many units would your party, if elected, build on the Cowper Street site?
Jamie – The scale and density of development should be compatible with existing development in Glebe. This would mean no more than about 250 units on the site.
Verity – The final design, scale and height of the development must be subjected to extensive consultation with the local community and in keeping with the suburb’s heritage and character.
Our comment – Hands off Glebe has extensively consulted with the community since 2008 when the Cowper Street project was first mooted. There is very little support for high rise high density development in Glebe.
- Would all those units be retained as public housing? if some other arrangement is planned would you please outline it to us?
Jamie – Yes, with a mix of affordable and social housing.
Verity – Verity did not answer this question. See her response to questions 1 & 2, which suggests she supports some development on the site being in private hands.
- Would your party build units on the Cowper Street land more than 4 storeys high?
Jamie – No, this would be out of character with other development in Glebe.
Verity – Verity did not answer this question, and has not ruled out high rise development. See question 3.
- Does your party support the “social cleansing” of the city by moving public housing tenants out of areas such as Glebe, Millers Point, Redfern-Waterloo and Surry Hills?
Jamie – Absolutely not. The sell-off of public housing in Millers Point is a disgrace, and a betrayal of the community who lives there. Many families in Millers Point have lived there for generations. All “high value” homes are these days a potential target for evictions and sales. The Liberal government is continuing the former Labor government program which has seen the sale of so much public housing in Glebe. Their approach is an attack on the most vulnerable members of our community, and a threat to diversity and social inclusion.
Verity – NSW Labor opposes the social dislocation now being inflicted on the tenants of Millers Point by the current government and if elected, will put a stop to any further sell off of these properties. Labor is committed to the retention of the Glebe estate. Labor has also demonstrated that it is prepared to invest in the maintenance of these heritage homes. Labor’s approach is at complete odds with the Liberal government’s current policy of simply selling heritage homes and cruelly evicting tenants.
7…If not, what does your party propose to do to retain public housing neighbourhoods in the city area?
Jamie – The Greens will continue to oppose the sell-off and will call for increased expenditure on public housing. The Greens are opposed to massive subsidisation of private investors in the housing market, as this serves to skew the housing market without necessarily providing affordable, secure and decent housing for those in need.
Verity – Verity did not answer this question. See question 6.
- Does your party support the sale of public housing homes in Glebe and, if so, to what extent?
Jamie – No. There is no lack of demand for housing in Glebe and all public housing properties should be retained.
Verity – Verity did not answer this question. See question 6.
- Is your party committed to the proper maintenance of public housing homes in Glebe?
Jamie – Yes. There is a need for greater expenditure on public housing maintenance to address the $300M backlog. As well, the Greens have called upon the NSW Government to review its existing arrangements with maintenance contractor Spotless as service delivery has been very poor.
Verity – In the last term of the Federal and State Labor governments over $9.2 million was devoted to maintenance work for inner city public housing. In this tranche of the federal government’s stimulus program, $2.5 million was spent on maintenance work for 724 homes in Glebe. This expenditure was on top of the state Labor government’s existing maintenance budget.
LIBERAL PARTY RESPONSE
Lyndon Gannon, Liberal candidate for Balmain, did not answer our questions but instead chose to send us a general statement.
The NSW Government inherited a social housing system that was unfair and unsustainable.
Since 2011, the NSW Government has worked hard to make the social housing system stronger, fairer and better.
We have made waiting lists transparent to help people make better decisions, run amnesties to crack down on those rorting the system, introduced measures so more people can access social housing and made decisions like Millers Point which will mean money for new homes and maintenance. However, there is more to do. The social housing discussion continues to face significant challenges.
That is why the NSW Government has released the Social Housing Discussion Paper which will guide future reforms. The Discussion Paper is based on three pillars: a social housing system that provides opportunity and pathways for client independence, a social housing system that is fair and a social housing system that is sustainable.
Our comment – Lyndon says nothing about injecting more money into housing. New housing is to be built by selling off homes in the inner city, cracking down on “rorters”, and promoting “independence.” A talkfest is not going to solve the massive shortage of affordable housing.
OUR VERDICT—In the race to provide a good policy on public housing, the clear winner is Jamie Parker. Verity Firth comes second and Lyndon Gannon last.
The winners were:
First prize J. Simpson, Glebe; 2nd prize I. Kirby, Glebe
3rd donated to Centipede; 4th A. Yates, Stanmore
Hands off Glebe expresses its appreciation and thanks to
the local businesses which donated the raffle prizes.
Alfie and Hetty restaurant Mr Falcon’s
NEW AT THE WEBSITE
Read the Hands off Glebe submission to the NSW Government’s Discussion Paper on Social Housing at www.handsoffglebe.org/category/submissions
Read the Hands off Glebe leaflet protesting against the sale of Bidura at http://www.handsoffglebe.org/category/savebidura/
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