Around 150 residents joined a public meeting at The Factory in Waterloo on Thursday 11th February, to voice their concerns about the future of public housing in Waterloo.
The cause of concerns is the announcement by the NSW Government late last year that two thousand Waterloo public housing residences will be demolished to make way for a development built around the new metro train station.
Many Waterloo public housing residents have lived in the area for years – some for decades - creating close-knit networks. They’re understandably worried about the impending redevelopment and the likelihood that their community will be torn apart.
The meeting was held by Member for Newtown Jenny Leong, with Greens City of Sydney Councillor Irene Doutney and tenant representatives from Millers Point public housing, who shared their recent experiences of fighting to keep their homes. Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard also attended the meeting.
A number of key concerns were raised:
- Residents were very apprehensive about the timeline of relocations. They had not received any information as to when relocations would commence since they were originally informed about the redevelopment in December 2016. Minister Hazzard suggested that information about timing would be given at a further meeting to be held the following week.
- A large proportion of residents are elderly, have special needs and/or have very limited English. These residents rely heavily on their friends, family and support networks in Waterloo and are deeply troubled by the prospect of being separated from them.
- Many residents rely heavily on local medical and support services and are apprehensive about accessing them in a new environment.
- The process of relocating can be very traumatic and there are a large number of residents who already struggle with mental and physical health challenges.
The residents’ questions and concerns were collated by Ms Leong’s office and passed on to the office of the Minister, with a request that each be addressed.
On Thursday 18th February, a meeting organised by the Minister’s office was held at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern. Ms Leong was in attendance, as were many of the residents who had voiced concerns at the initial public meeting.
At that meeting the Minister and Departmental staff communicated the following:
- Relocations would begin mid-2017 and would be staged over 15-20 years (however there was no indication of the order in which buildings will be affected or any sort of detailed timeline).
- Minister Hazzard confirmed that he had advocated strongly for the Metro Station to be built in Waterloo, rather than at the University of Sydney, as it would give the opportunity to redevelop Waterloo public housing.
In direct response to requests made at the initial public meeting:
- A fact sheet was provided that directly addressed many of the questions Ms Leong raised with the Minister's office on residents' behalf.
- Residents were given the opportunity to talk one on one with Housing NSW staff, as well as in a group forum situation.
- Russian and Mandarin interpreters came, to address concerns around particular communities not having access to information.
Ms Leong has confirmed that she will continue to work closely with Waterloo public housing residents, to ensure that the Government sticks to their word and gives residents a proper say in the planning around the redevelopment at Waterloo.
The Department of Family and Community Services has now opened a ‘Waterloo Connect’ office at 95 Wellington St, which is open Monday-Friday 10am-4pm, specifically to deal with enquiries about the redevelopment and relocations.