The Glebe Grapevine Feb 2015

You heard it here!


February 2015


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.


  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.



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

            Galuzzo’s                                                      GleeBooks



Read the Hands off Glebe submission to the NSW Government’s Discussion Paper on Social Housing at

Read the Hands off Glebe leaflet protesting against the sale of Bidura at


Like us on Facebook — find us at handsoffglebe

Submission re: NSW Social Housing Discussion Paper

Submission from Hands off Glebe Inc.

to the NSW Government’s

Discussion Paper on Social Housing in NSW



“We are in a housing crisis that extends from the homeless on the street well into the middle class. We have couples deciding not to have children because they do not have the space to house them. We have people paying exorbitant rents … Yet ministers just sit there like gouty old men in the 19th hole.” (Nick Cohen, Spectator 7/1/13 quoted in Dorling p.37)

There are a number of assumptions in the Discussion Paper which make its proposals for resolving the housing crisis unworkable and unacceptable.

  • Social housing is viewed as an element of the welfare system. However, to solve the current housing crisis requires that we understand it as an essential sector of the whole housing system.
  • The proposed “pathway to independence” is in reality a pathway to dependence upon the less secure and less affordable private rental market. Age, disability and family responsibility are common bars to the labour market. For those able to work, secure jobs are not always available. The national unemployment rate in January 2015 was 6.1% and in NSW it was 5.9%. Youth unemployment is even higher.
  • The Discussion Paper says “The overall objective of the new system is to provide a safety net.” Why? It would be socially and economically fairer and more sustainable if eligibility was significantly expanded.
  • Social housing is presented as dependence, private rental is independence. Why? The only real difference is the landlord.
  • Housing in the private sector is the preferred form of housing. Why? Affordable public housing, in various forms, is equally acceptable. Small government and market dominance are not better than state involvement in public infrastructure which can deliver fairer outcomes.

Hands Off Glebe argues for an expanded and improved national, publicly funded housing program. Government has a responsibility for the well-being of the citizens, including the provision of accessible, good quality, affordable, well-maintained public housing, for families and individuals. We cannot rely on the private rental and sales market to provide for our housing needs.

The Discussion Paper says nothing about injecting money into public housing. This should be a priority. It is only with access to decent, affordable housing that members of our community can achieve their potential in education and employment.

PILLAR 1 — a pathway not a destination

The Discussion Paper says:

 “A social housing system should provide opportunity and pathway for client independence and work to break the cycle of disadvantage, while supporting vulnerable people.”

“The current focus of the social housing system is on sustaining tenancy, rather than encouraging opportunity or independence.” P13

Very few public housing tenants will ever be able to afford the rocketing cost of private rentals. Why should they be cast adrift on the private rental housing market?

The presumption that private rental accommodation is a better housing outcome for tenants than public housing is not justified. Private rental accommodation may be in a poorer condition than public housing, and tenure is often less secure. A government policy promoting private rental accommodation in lieu of public housing would of course benefit landlords.

Hands off Glebe seeks a broadening of public housing so that once again public housing becomes a significant element of the housing system. There is no reason public housing should not be a destination. It may be the only realistic goal for many people.

As the Discussion Paper notes, “Private rental housing in NSW, especially in the greater Sydney metropolitan region, has become increasingly unaffordable for low income households over the past ten years. In addition, social housing tenants are faced with the risk of losing stable housing should they voluntarily transition to the private rental market, given the difficulty faced in re-entering the social housing system.”

“In terms of home ownership, Sydney is one of the least affordable cities in the world…

“The deterioration in housing affordability is even worse for private renters. On average, in the last decade, Sydney private rents increased by 47 per cent in real terms.“(Eastgate pp. 5-7

An Anglicare report highlighted the unaffordability of the private rental market for 99% of people on Centrelink benefits.

Security of tenure is highly valued by social housing tenants but it is put at risk by the insistence on social housing as ‘a pathway not a destination’. For most social housing tenants it is clearly a destination. Once they have social housing they have no desire to go anywhere else. This view is based on a realistic assessment of the alternatives on offer. Home ownership is beyond their resources while private rental, even if it is available, is neither affordable nor secure..

Social housing is highly successful in delivering affordability to its tenants. While in 2009-10, 60% of low income tenants in the private rental market were experiencing housing stress (paying over 30% of their income in rent) and 48% of low income home purchasers were in mortgage stress, only 1.3% of low income social housing tenants were reported as being in housing stress. (Eastgate p 9)

The insistence on trying to move tenants out of social housing and into the private market, and on making the system merely a safety net represent further steps in the direction of the government trying to shed its responsibilities by operating social housing as a residual welfare measure.

PILLAR 2 — a fair system

Average tenure in social housing is long and increasing with more than 50%of tenants living in public housing for ten years or more. This is only to be expected in a climate where governments are increasingly focussed on the provision of public housing as a safety net for the disadvantaged rather than as integral to our society, like public education and health.

The Discussion Paper says “There is a trend for tenants to stay longer in social housing meaning there are fewer opportunities to assist new people.” (p24).

This is only true if no new public housing stock is built. Additionally, the inference that current social housing tenants are being unfair by staying in their homes when the waiting list is so long is unacceptable. This is blaming tenants for the waiting list and trying to solve the problem by throughput of tenants and not increasing the amount of social housing available for “new people”. This is a political wedge to play social housing tenants off against those in the private rental market and those on the waiting list.

The Discussion Paper claims that “A fair social housing system is also one where tenants value the support they are receiving, by taking care of their dwelling, paying rent and contributing to their community.” (p21)

This is a view that social housing equates to support rather than a human right and it presupposes that all people have a mindset where beds are made and dishes washed before people leave the house. This simply does not reflect the profile of many social housing tenants.

The government is setting up this standard while not acknowledging the widespread need for assisted living support systems. This does not mean re-institutionalisation of large numbers of people but appropriate support within a social housing model which does not put timeframes on tenancy but accepts that a large number of people need permanent housing options.

The Discussion Paper states: “the NSW social housing system as a whole requires a fundamental shift in emphasis from a stated objective of ‘maximise opportunities for all’ to a clearer objective that prioritises those most in need.

In the opinion of Hands off Glebe, the reverse is true. Rather than cater only for the disadvantaged, there is a need to maximise opportunities for the many hundreds of thousands of people coping with housing difficulties.

Priority to housing those most in need (mental health, disability, illness, poverty, seniors) is fair, but if the system is to start meeting the real housing need it needs to absorb working families and those with moderate incomes facing rental stress. A larger social housing portfolio would make a much fairer system.

Hands off Glebe support the objectives of the Housing Act, including:

(a) to maximise the opportunities for all people in New South Wales to have access to secure, appropriate and affordable housing,

(b) to ensure that housing opportunities and assistance are available to all sections of the community with housing needs,

(c) to ensure that public housing is developed as a viable and diversified form of housing choice.

PILLAR 3 — a sustainable system

Revenues under the income-based rent model have declined relative to growing operating costs.

According to the Discussion Paper, the decline in revenue is the result of two things. Firstly, payments from the Commonwealth have been declining in real terms over the last two decades. Since 1995-96 funding is estimated to have declined by more than $200 million per annum in real terms — a total reduction of $2.7 billion over4 twenty years. Secondly, rental revenues have grown more slowly than market rent, especially as the tenant mix has changed from being historically skewed towards working families to now having more tenants who rely on government income support as their main source of income.” (p 38)

A broader tenant base will improve rental income relative to costs. The new public housing built by the NSW Government in the past few years has been transferred to affordable housing providers, who charge higher rents. The older stock has been retained in government hands and is used to house more impoverished tenants.

Why does the system have to be sustainable?

As Ferrer points out,: “Most public services in NSW are usually much less self-sufficient than housing and require substantial operational subsidies. For example, recurrent health expenditure is 86 per cent subsidised, education is 96 per cent subsidised, and trains are 52 per cent subsidised.” (p 7).

Why is social housing a special case? Ferrer notes that it is possible to sustain and grow the social housing system in New South Wales but that this will require “the establishment of an explicit annual capital program for social housing in a similar way as it operates for services in health, education and transport.”  (p 15)


Governments have a responsibility for the provision of basic infrastructure and services to meet the needs of the community. Governments are expected to support for those unable to provide for themselves.

The NSW Government must provide access to safe, secure and well maintained affordable housing. This requires sufficient housing availability and planning in response to social needs, not the demands of the market or the private interests of developers.

Hands off Glebe supports the implementation of a program to build tens of thousands of new homes in New South Wales.

Entry into social housing should be available to those who want it, on incomes of less than $90,000 per annum. Tenants should pay rent of no more than 25% of their gross income

There should be greater involvement of tenants in management and maintenance with maintenance provided by local maintenance crews and apprenticeships for young unemployed people in social housing communities.

Public housing should be readily accessible to transport, jobs, education and health services.

Sales of existing public housing stock should cease immediately.

The government must increase funding, recurrent and capital investment, for affordable public housing.

Hands off Glebe believe that the NSW Government should allocate a portion of the large income stream it receives by way of stamp duty and land tax to build new public housing. Most of that revenue is derived from housing, and should be reinvested in housing, rather than be absorbed into consolidated revenue. The 2014 Budget was $1.2 billion in surplus due to increased revue from sales tax and land tax.

Core services go hand in hand. Health, education and corrective services should all bear some of the cost due to the benefits provided by secure housing.

Superannuation funds should be used as a source of funding for construction of new social housing

Community Housing Services should not be used by government to offload its housing responsibilities onto the non government and charity sectors. Where there is a genuine demand for group housing or local control of public housing consideration could be given to funding same.



Australians for Affordable Housing, media release August 2013

Dorling Danny, All that is Solid, Allen Lane, London 2014

Eastgate Jon with Rix Paula, Social housing visions: what tenants and frontline workers value in social housing, report prepared for Shelter NSW, January 2015

Ferrer Emilio, The cost of increasing social and affordable housing supply in New South Wales, report prepared for Shelter NSW, December 2014

Give Bidura back to the Community


Bidura Sold!

Bidura, the heritage house at 357 Glebe Point Road which has been a children’s home and later a Children’s Court since 1920, has been sold off for $33 million by the Baird Government without any consultation with our community. The sale includes the modern building behind the heritage house.

The private developer has said he will build 100 units on the site!

The Baird Government wants to pack and stack us into our suburb. But Glebe is known as a village and Baird’s policies will destroy the village!

Voice your opposition to this sale and
send the Baird Government this leaflet (see overleaf)



He and his Government are making sure that Glebe residents
and public housing tenants will have their Christmas
spoiled by their anti-people policies


Dear Premier Baird,

We strongly object to the sell off of Bidura in Glebe Point Road in secret and without consultation or respect for local residents.

This property could have been used by your Government for a number of much needed community amenities rather than being sold off to the private sector. Bidura could have renovated to provide:

  • Social and affordable housing for some of the thousands on the waiting list.
  • A community facility –leave it as a Children’s Court !
  • An education facility
  • an arts or cultural centre

Instead of thinking of the people’s needs, you have flogged this wonderful building off to a developer who will see it only as a source of profit, not a community asset.

We call on you to reverse this decision. Keep Bidura in public hands and develop it to meet people’s needs.

While your Government continues to see property as a source of revenue and continues to ignores community views and needs, we will do all in our power to unseat you come the March 2015 election.

Signed ________________________________________




Send to: NSW Premier Baird, Parliament House, Macquarie Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Authorised by Hands off Glebe, PO Box 45, Glebe NSW 2037. E:

Grapevine December 14 2014 issue


You heard it here!

The Grapevine wishes all our readers a happy
Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year
in a secure, decent and affordable home.

December 2014

Bays Precinct: Democracy or Profit?

Despite denials, it is clear the Baird Government is determined to ignore the community and international experts, and hand over our precious public harbour lands to private developers motivated only by profit. The community has developed Public Interest Principles which call on the NSW Government to:ensure that the Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project follows a democratic and open process; enables public and private interests to come together creatively and imaginatively; ensures that the outcome will be a worthy of the site and of Sydney’s status as a global city; and properly protects the public interest.

Program for housing reform

In our next edition, the Grapevine will publish the responses of candidates for the 2015 State Election to our questions about housing. On page 2 of this issue, we set out the Hands off Glebe  program for housing reform.

The Mezzo—half baked

Developers of the site at the corner of Bay Street and Wentworth Park Road have lodged a DA with Sydney City Council. They want to build 213 units plus 4720m2 of commercial and retail space, in a 33 metre high development plus 2 levels of basement parking. If approved, it will be the densest development in Glebe. The site is particularly ill suited for such intense development because of noise and flooding. Undeterred by practicalities, the developers have been flogging unit sales for months. There are also serious fire risks in the current design.


The Grapevine marks the death of Gough Whitlam. Among his achievements, he, and Tom Uren, gave us the Glebe Estate. At the time of the Whitlam Government, Liberals and Labor alike supported public housing. Like clean water and public education, access to decent housing was a cornerstone of a fairer society, where opportunity was not just squandered on the rich. Secure, affordable housing improves access to education and employment, and lessens dependence on health and welfare services.

Hands off Glebe’s  program for housing reform includes:

  • Public housing should be available to all who need it, who earn less than $90,000 per annum, and should consume no more than 25% of income.
  • Stop knocking down and selling off our homes. Housing is more than bricks and mortar. It is community, diversity and heritage.
  • Stop selling public land, including the 80 hectare Bays Precinct.
  • Recognize tenants’ rights to stay in their homes, except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Catch up with the maintenance backlog, with local maintenance teams employed by local housing offices.
  • Treat public housing tenants with respect.
  • Stop wasting public money on privately owned affordable housing schemes which benefit only the developers.
  • End negative gearing, which pushes up the price of housing by subsidizing speculation and tax avoidance.
  • The NSW Government reaps enormous and increasing revenues from housing by way of stamp duty and land tax. This year the budget is in surplus by $1.2 billion. Dedicate the income stream from these property taxes to build tens of thousands of new homes in New South Wales, thereby:

î  Providing homes to those on the waiting list.
î  Introducing real competition into the housing market. At present, developers build what they want, and charge what they like.
î  Creating jobs.

  • Recognise social housing as part of the whole housing sector, not part of the shrinking welfare system.

When affordable doesn’t mean affordable

What do you think when you hear the government talk about “affordable housing”? Inexpensive? Reasonably priced? Cheap enough for everyone to afford?

A rough estimation of affordability is 30% of gross income. This should leave enough to pay tax and other expenses like food, clothing, utilities, transport and medical costs.

In Australia there are a number of ‘affordable’ housing programs but the most common funding models are:

  1. a) a market rent reduction. This model is generally used by private developers who get a planning concession (for example more floors, smaller units) or a subsidy of up to $100,000 in return for providing some ‘affordable’ units generally for a limited period of time (often 10 years). The tenant in this model will pay 75% to 80% of the market rent.
  2. b) an income based model. This model is sometimes be used by government funded community housing providers. Some of the units are offered to a mix of people on very low and low to moderate incomes.

What do these two models mean in practice for someone living and working in Sydney?

Statistics kept by the NSW Government show that in the June quarter of 2014 the average market rent for a one bedroom unit in inner Sydney is $500 per week.  75% to 80% of the market rent means the tenant pays $375 to $400 per week. Using the 30% rule that person will need to earn $69,333 per year which is just under the median Sydney income. So a single person with an income of less $69,000 is unlikely to qualify for one of these units.

What about the second model? In the second model the landlord provides a mix of housing for people on very low to moderate incomes.  Only a small number of the units will be made available for those on very low incomes (defined as less than 50% of the median income $37,544). The remainder will be given to single people who earn between 51% (37,544) to 120% of median income ($90,105).

In addition because landlords usually want to maximise their income it is in their financial interests to house those households with an income as close as possible to the income limit. Again this means that those on an aged pension or on the minimum annual wage of $31,512 are unlikely to get access to this housing.

So next time someone tells you they are building affordable housing, ask how the rent will be calculated and  how many single people on a pension or on a minimum wage may be allocated one of those units.

You may be surprised how hard it is to get a direct answer.

What’s the difference?

Since Hands Off Glebe has been actively working in Glebe there have been many small victories and changes.

Hands off Glebe has been constant in keeping this and similar issues in the public eye through postcard and letter writing campaigns, petitions and protest gatherings and rallies in Glebe and outside Parliament House where we have twice met with Parliamentarians from different parties.

Hands off Glebe has been active in making submissions to enquiries into public housing, City of Sydney development proposals and letter writing to politicians.

Hands off Glebe members have attended a large number of public meetings focussing on public housing.

We aim to speak in the interests of public housing tenants and pushed for government commitment to the maintenance of public housing. We have joined with the tenants in Miller’s Point and formed links with other tenants groups in Sydney.

We  produce this newsletter, the Glebe Grapevine. Every second month a wonderful team of volunteers letterboxes over 5,000 copies across Glebe.

On the local front we have acted as advocates for a number of tenants on the Glebe Estate, Our campaign to Fix the Fences which involved a You Tube clip, meetings with FACS and letters to the Minister has resulted in a large number of fences being repaired and restored.

Some of this may have been “programmed maintenance” but  any of the fences we featured on social media were fixed within weeks, after years of tenants making complaints.

Hands Off Glebe has been busy making a difference.

Authorised by Denis Doherty. PO Box 145, Glebe NSW 2037

The Glebe Grapevine is a publication of Hands Off Glebe Inc.

Contact: P.O. Box 145, Glebe NSW 2037.

Ring Denis on 0418 290 663