Northcote Public Housing Estate: Public Housing Tenants Deserve Better

Today I brought to the attention of Parliament the serious issues facing public housing tenants at the Northcote Estate. The NSW Government can and must do better. 


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) [1.15 p.m.]: According to census data from 2011, public housing dwellings account for 8.9 per cent of the total dwellings in the Newtown electorate. That puts Newtown among the 10 electorates in the State with the highest proportion of public dwellings. We have a great diversity of public housing tenants and communities across the electorate. I use the word "communities" mindfully and intentionally because I have met many of the supportive and proactive services, groups of tenants and local residents who have come together to work on local campaigns. These close-knit communities have supported each other in relation to recreational activities and have offered assistance and friendship across the neighbourhood of these public housing areas.

Unfortunately, during my first year as the member for Newtown I have seen the constant challenges faced by public housing tenants. The stories of maintenance issues, security issues and waiting lists are not new; they have been told before in this place. However, sometimes things reach a crisis point, and it is important for and incumbent upon us all to work together to address them. Last Friday 11 March, I spent time at the well-known Northcott public housing estate in Surry Hills. For a number of years, residents and staff have been raising serious concerns about escalating crime activity in the area.

Just last week there was a violent stabbing at Northcott. According to the police report, on Tuesday 8 March emergency services were called to Belvoir Street in Surry Hills following reports of an injured man lying in the driveway of an apartment block. On the Friday, I met with residents and talked to them about this incident. It was clear that everyone was traumatised; the mood was tense. When a lawnmower started up or there was a bang from the dropping of a glass people jumped; they were on edge. The community is traumatised by what has occurred and we need to work together to take action.

According to residents, more and more people with severe mental health issues are being moved into Northcott without the adequate support services. Increasingly, the NSW Police Force, the Department of Housing and the NSW Land and Housing Corporation are dealing with problems that should be dealt with through our health systems, mental health support services and drug, alcohol and addiction services. It is being left to the police and housing to deal with these problems because of the inadequate support that is provided in these areas. The residents of Northcott have asked me to raise their concerns in this place and with the Minister, which I will continue to do. I look forward to working constructively with the Minister to address the serious issues in the Northcott public housing estate.

Residents are asking for more effective and visible policing—not just police cars driving into the area and back out again. They want visible police presence, such as officers walking around the area, so that through this community policing there is a sense of safety and security. Residents are asking for greater clarity around security at the entrances. They want the ability to use swipe cards which would allow residents to access only their floor. They want proper services for ex-prisoners who may now be living in public housing and need strong transitional support and for people with mental health and addiction problems who need to be provided with support. Residents are asking for a public meeting with the Minister, which I hope to be able to facilitate in the coming weeks.

I refer to models that address the issues of crime and violence within our public housing system and ensure that residents feel safe and secure. I do not have to look far. Just down the road from the Northcott public housing estate is Poets Corner in Redfern. Recently, I was pleased to join the Minister at the opening of the RedLink Integrated Services Hub. It provides 24-hour security guards and a concierge on the front desk so that entry and exit is controlled. Across-the-board services can be accessed through Redlink, including mental health support, legal services, employment assistance and drug and alcohol counselling.

I recognise that that project took a commitment of money. I believe that no community in the electorate of Newtown is more in need of that type of commitment than Northcott and its residents. We all need to work together constructively on this matter. I say to the residents who live in this area that we are paying attention. I commit to them that I will continue to work constructively with both them and the Minister to address the challenges faced by that community. We need vibrant, safe and secure diverse public housing for people living in the electorate of Newtown.


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