In December last year, just before Christmas, the state government announced a plan to redevelop the Waterloo area over the next 20 years.
They also announced the need to relocate at least 2,000 public housing tenants as a result, while the redevelopment takes place. The plan follows similar decisions in 2014 and 2015 to sell and redevelop public housing areas in Ivanhoe and Millers Point.
Tenants had a long wait to get more details about what they could expect. On February 18, 2016 Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard spoke to a packed room of concerned Waterloo residents about the plans.
Many welcomed the minister’s statement at the meeting that he would “absolutely guarantee” that people could move back to the area once the redevelopment was completed.
Other details – such as when tenants would be expected to move, when they can return, and what social services and infrastructure would be provided to support them – are yet to be announced.
Minister Hazzard stressed that the community would be consulted about major details of the plan. Redfern Legal Centre’s Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice & Advocacy Service, along with many other organisations and tenants’ groups, hope that tenants will be consulted about the impacts that the decision could have on their welfare, health and community.
Any consultation should involve a comprehensive assessment of the social impacts of the decision, and a plan that allows tenants to maintain their ties to community. That consultation should also consider how the decision could impact on the housing system in general, and particularly on tenants outside of Waterloo who have been waiting significant lengths of time for transfers.
Although we welcome the guarantee of return for Waterloo residents, our experience advocating with tenants facing relocation raises some concerns about the Waterloo redevelopment plan.
We are concerned that there are no firm commitments to increase the number of public housing dwellings in Waterloo. Though Minister Hazzard has pledged an increase in social and affordable housing, he has not yet specified what percentage of housing would continue to be owned by the government.
The term “social housing” includes both public housing and community housing. Public housing refers to government-owned and managed properties, whereas community housing, and “affordable housing”, is run by non-government providers.
Tenants in community housing often find their housing less secure and decisions of their landlords harder to challenge.
We have defended a large number of tenants at threat of eviction for no reason from affordable or community housing, a practice that is rarely if ever used in public housing. We oppose the trend towards the sale and transfer of public housing to community housing providers in the inner Sydney area. It is vital that links to community and services be maintained for tenants.
The rights and responsibilities of Housing NSW when they relocate tenants for redevelopment are set out in the Residential Tenancies Act and in Housing Policy. The Act says that Housing NSW can end a tenant’s lease if the tenant rejects offers to relocate.
However, tenants facing relocation also have rights – to be made reasonable offers that match what they need, to choose the area they relocate to, and to challenge decisions about their relocation if Housing do not follow the rules.
Tenants rights in relocation:
Housing NSW has to make tenants offers of other properties to move to. In most cases, it must make two offers.
Housing NSW has to invite each tenant to an interview and get information about their household’s housing needs. Housing needs includes the number of bedrooms, type of property and the area each household requires.
Tenants can have a support person or advocate with them at the interview. They do not have to speak to Housing NSW alone.
After the interview, a tenant is entitled to a relocation statement that sets out what their entitlements are, what will happen and when.
Tenants have the right to appeal decisions made by Housing NSW throughout the relocation process.
Tenants who think Housing NSW has made an unfair decision about them can seek advice from a tenants’ advice service.
The local service for Waterloo is the Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice & Advocacy Service at Redfern Legal Centre. Contacts us on: 9698 5975.
We are recruiting for a dynamic person who enjoys working in a client facing role to assist people
experiencing disadvantage to navigate the legal assistance sector, and to train and mentor law
students in client intake. This is an identified role for an First Nations person
We are recruiting for an First Nations lawyer to contribute to our innovative and dynamic policing and generalist practices. This is an identified role for people of First Nations descent who identify and are accepted as such in the community.