From Millers Point to Waterloo: RLC forum on public housing redevelopment

In June, RLC hosted a community forum on the impact of public housing redevelopment and displacement, launching a new resource to support public housing tenants seeking urgent repairs.

Safe as Houses? From Millers Point to Waterloo brought together a panel of experts to debate the experience of tenants displaced by the sell-off of public housing in Millers Point, with the aim of informing support for residents facing relocation in Waterloo and other public housing areas.

Guests on the panel included Barney Gardner, a long-term public housing resident and prominent Millers Point activist, and Professor Alan Morris, a research professor in the Institute of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney who has written extensively on the impact of gentrification and redevelopment on public housing communities.

Nicole Kennedy, tenancy coordinator at Redfern Legal Centre’s Inner Sydney Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service (ISTAAS), facilitated the event, which was attended by a mix of residents and support workers.

Also on the panel was Kimberley Mackenzie, a senior tenancy solicitor from Redfern Legal Centre, Martin Barker, a tenants’ advocate from Marrickville Legal Centre, and filmmaker Blue Lucine who directed The Eviction, a groundbreaking Australian documentary on the sell-off of public housing in Millers Point.

Forum attendees watched a series of excerpts from Blue Lucine’s film as a way to stimulate discussion on key issues facing public housing residents.

The discussion highlighted the immense trauma and upheaval that public housing relocation can cause, particularly for older or more vulnerable tenants who are often cut off from the only community they have ever known, and left totally isolated and alone.

Professor Morris (pictured left) and the other panelists gave sobering first-hand accounts of the devastating health impacts that this kind of displacement can cause, including anxiety, depression, and even suicide.

‘It has impacted them terribly,’ Mr Gardner said reflecting on the experience of many elderly residents displaced from their Millers Point homes.

‘The human cost is phenomenal,’ Professor Morris said.

‘Relocation by stealth’: Neglected repairs sounds warning bells

Similar to the experience of residents in the lead up to Millers Point sell-off, many public housing tenants in Waterloo say they are having trouble getting repairs done as the spectre of relocation looms.

‘What we are seeing is relocation by stealth,’ Ms Kennedy said. ‘In areas like Waterloo and Glebe, and other areas in Redfern Legal Centre’s catchment, many requests for repairs are going unheeded.’

‘Over time, these requests mount up and properties are left to slide into complete disrepair. Eventually, the total cost of repairs is so great it is used as justification to relocate the property, rather than complete the necessary repairs.’

Tenants’ advocate Martin Barker echoed these sentiments, saying that the high repair costs in Millers Point was there ‘only because the government had done nothing to the properties for twenty years.’

At the forum, Redfern Legal Centre launched a newly updated resource to support public housing residents: The Repair Kit: Getting FACS Housing to repair your home.

This free legal guide aims to support tenants to navigate the process of requesting repairs and modifications to their homes. The guide includes sample forms and letter templates, designed to assist tenants to advocate for themselves in getting urgent home repairs and modifications done.

Hard copies of The Repair Kit can be ordered from Redfern Legal Centre by emailing info@rlc.org.au. The guide can be downloaded here.

Tenants seeking advice can call Redfern Legal Centre’s Inner Sydney Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service (ISTAAS) on 9698 5975.