The Guardian • Issue #2037

Call for housing justice

82 Wentworth Park Road Glebe. This relatively young building composed of family units and single bedroom flats is set to be demolished and replaced by a four-storey building of single flats. The environmental and economic costs of providing a few more flats are unsustainable while the costs to residents in disruption of their lives and health are excessive. Adding poignancy to the situation is that directly across the road homeless men and women are sleeping under the arches of an aqueduct. Photo: Hands Off Glebe

Housing is looming as a major election issue in the NSW election to be held in March this year. The housing crisis extends from the homeless to those who are well paid. Large numbers of people are homeless, couch-surfing, sleeping in cars, or suffering housing stress.

The current schemes on offer from the two major parties only provide a real estate agents’ picnic while maintaining the present inequitable situation.

A massive injection of public housing funding combined with an increased income threshold for public housing eligibility would make big inroads into the current crisis.

It is time to radically change course and fund public housing on a massive scale. This is the main way to solve the housing crisis. We need housing justice in NSW.

The NSW government is privatising public housing estates in the city and in the regions. The 12 years of the Liberal-National government have seen it sell off $4 billion worth of housing stock.

Some of the Sydney estates listed for demolition and privatisation by the current Liberal-National government are in Glebe, Erskineville, Waterloo and Riverwood. The number of people to be relocated is over 5000.

Instead of renovating public housing, the NSW government is selling off individual public housing properties to speculators or people who can afford to pay millions. So far about 40 houses in Glebe’s heritage area have been sold.

This policy is callous and short-sighted given the crisis in NSW affordable housing.

The new federal Labor government’s policy will not be realised until the Housing Australia Future Fund is put before parliament in the early months of this year. The fund, valued at $10 billion, will not see any houses built till 2024. This is small comfort to those on the waiting lists for years and needing homes now.

There is also the much-vaunted Housing Accord between the States and the Commonwealth that will see State governments building 20,000 homes over five years.

However, NSW’s share of that 20,000 will in no way bring down the waiting list for public housing which is currently 50,000.

Prime Minister Albanese and Minister for Housing and Homelessness Julie Collins are former public housing tenants. Both put their hands on their hearts and promise their support for public housing – but the new homes are not rolling out.

A strong public sector ownership of housing proved its worth after WW2 and could do so again with political will.

Join the Housing Justice Rally on February 11 at 12 noon at Sydney Town Hall.

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