Residents facing eviction from their public housing homes after a backflip by the Minns government, say they feel like they are fighting in a war.
The demolition plans that would break up the community in Waterloo and relocate 1,000 people have left residents distressed and put their lives in limbo, after they had been lead to believe the plans were to be scrapped.
Action for Public Housing activist and Waterloo South resident Karyn Brown has been fighting to save her home and community for the past eight years since the first announcement to demolish the Waterloo housing estate in 2015.
“We have done away with disposable shopping bags, it is time we stopped seeing people’s homes as disposable,” Brown, who has lived in her apartment for 30 years, told Central News.
“I’ve seen the trees grow. There’s some really big beautiful trees here and most of them will be demolished as well.”
“Without trees, there won’t be any birds either. There’ll be nothing but construction noises.”
Brown said it is “ridiculous” to demolish homes in a housing crisis because that’ll add 1000 people to the NSW waiting list for social housing. In June, the list was at 55,880 households.
“How on earth do they treat the home of like 3,000 people as surplus land?” Brown asked.
“It is pretty belittling I think. It’s like a war on public housing. So I feel like I’m fighting in a war.”
Fix the housing crisis
Hundreds of residents and activists spoke out about the demolitions and protested at the recent rally to ‘Fix The Housing Crisis’. The event was hosted by the ‘Get A Room’ student campaign and supported by Action For Public Housing activists and the Greens. Protestors gathered around Sydney Town Hall to listen to speaker activists before they began their march calling for more public housing, affordable housing and an immediate freeze on rents for two years.
Wiradjuri person, public housing tenant, and activist with Action For Public Housing and Hands Off Glebe, Carolyn Ienna, was a speaker at the Rally who was evicted from their home in Glebe last month. Their home of 30 years is about to be demolished, among other public housing homes in Sydney that are in danger.
Ienna said there had been a significant mental health impact on public housing residents who have been evicted.
“My neighbour was moved out last year, he was very unhappy, very sick and the move killed him,” Ienna said.
“I know more people are going to die, we’ve had three deaths since it was announced that 82 Wentworth Park Rd was going to be demolished.
“There’s only about a couple families left in there, two very frail people in each household and they most likely will die during the move. And I am just completely disgusted.”
Ienna said the building had stood there for 35 years in perfectly good condition and should not be demolished. As a Wiradjuri person, they said the public housing demolitions are “extremely racist” due to the high number of First Nations people living in public housing.
“The first people who became homeless during this colonisation were First Nations people,” they said.
“I know of people that have been moved at least three times and you’re told that ‘this is your home for life’ which is bullshit.”
Premier Chris Minns announced on August 21 the plans to demolish Waterloo South, the biggest public housing estate in NSW. It was a backflip from promises made in the lead up to the election, when Labor said it would “immediately end the sale of public housing” and told public housing tenants that they would protect their homes and residents would not be relocated.
The government’s pre-election promise was broken in Minns’ announcement to demolish 749 public homes in Waterloo which would evict and relocate 1,000 residents. The Minns government aims to demolish these homes to rebuild new housing where 50 per cent will be private homes. The remaining will be 30 per cent social housing and 20 per cent ‘affordable housing’.
Greens member for Newtown and spokesperson for housing and homelessness, Jenny Leong spoke at the rally and addressed what Labor’s reference to ‘affordable housing’ actually means.
“Well it only lasts for 15 years and then developers can then sell it off, cash it in and it becomes private housing,” she said.
“But in those 15 years, the ‘affordableness’ of it is not actually affordable, like it’s not based on ‘what’s your income’ and ‘what can you afford to pay’.
“It’s based on a percentage of what commercial and market rents are, and anyone that’s seen what it’s like to pay for a share house in Newtown, it’s not affordable!”
How many billions are they putting into the delivery of public housing? It’s not 39 f***ing billion, I can tell you that!
Waterloo public housing tenants are currently paying 25 per cent of their income as rent. If the Labor government replaces these buildings with ‘affordable housing’, tenants will be expected to pay 80 per cent of market rent which Ienna said is unaffordable for most people.
Leong added her concerns over the NSW government’s “privatisation agenda” and the massive profits the bank and property developers “reap in out of the housing stress and financial crisis that individual people face every day”.
“This year alone, the federal government will pay $39 billion in tax concessions to property developers,” Leong said.
“How many billions are they giving to renters to subsidise their rental costs? How many billions are they putting into the delivery of public housing?
“It’s not 39 f***ing billion, I can tell you that!”
Main image by Acacia Soares.