Busy time for residents and housing workers

It has been a busy few weeks in Waterloo. The City of Sydney has released an alternative approach for the redevelopment of the social housing estate, Counterpoint Community Services and Milk Crate Theatre have been collaborating on an artist development project titled Interim (commissioned by 107 Projects), residents took a trip to Riverwood to view the finished renewal of the social housing estate, and Groundswell went to Sydney Town Hall to fight for affordable housing and energy.

City’s alternative plan
On Wednesday March 6, the City of Sydney addressed a gathering at Alexandria Town Hall to formally promote its alternative plan for the Waterloo redevelopment. The plan is in response to the masterplan released by the state government in January 2019. The City argues that the masterplan does not reflect the needs of the community and therefore requests that planning authority for the site be returned to council.

The major components of the City’s alternative plan entail:
• Twenty per cent affordable housing, 50 per cent social housing and 30 per cent private with dedicated Aboriginal housing (compared to LAHC’s 5 per cent affordable, 30 per cent social and 65 per cent private).
• Reduced density from LAHC’s proposed 6,800 dwellings to 5,300.
• Building heights up to 13 storeys compared to LAHC’s 40.

The overall plan does provide a more positive outlook for Waterloo, with lower density, lower building heights and greater social and affordable housing. Questions have been raised, however, regarding the City’s plans to finance the redevelopment.

LAHC prepared the masterplan for the Waterloo Estate in accordance with the government’s Communities Plus guidelines. Accordingly, the government has argued that the final masterplan’s high density and allocation of only 35 per cent social and affordable housing is needed for the project to be a no net-cost development. The redevelopment of Waterloo will be financed by the sale of 4,400 private dwellings (65 per cent of total dwellings) and will not include any direct government investment or funding.

Under the City’s plan, there will be 2,830 fewer private dwellings, and therefore 2,830 fewer dwellings will be sold. The City has proposed that the revenue foregone from 1,500 of these be addressed by:
• Allocating proceeds from the sale of social housing properties within the City of Sydney’s local government area including $591 million from the sale of social housing in Millers Point and also $43 million that was set aside for affordable housing from development contributions from Central Park.
• Reducing the cost of the redevelopment by refurbishing the Matavai and Turanga towers and modifying another two high-rises, Marton and Daniel Solander, rather than a complete demolition and rebuild.

The City has also claimed the overall redevelopment will be less costly, as lower building heights means that the buildings will be cheaper to build and more developers will be competing for tender.

However, the council voted to increase the quotas for social and affordable housing to 50 and 20 per cent respectively after the original funding proposal was developed, resulting in a further cut of 1,330 private dwellings. The City has not said how it plans to finance this. It has promised that City architects are working on it.

The alternative plan does not hold any legal weight as a legitimate proposal for the site, because the NSW government declared the Waterloo Estate a State Significant Precinct, which removed planning controls from the City. The plan should be viewed as a means to reinvigorate community discussion regarding the future of Waterloo.

It is difficult to compare LAHC’s plan and the approach from the City of Sydney as LAHC has not released its technical studies except for the consultation report which you can find on the Communities Plus website.

It is unfortunate that the NSW government has not been able to formally comment on the City’s alternative proposal due to the state election caretaker period. REDWatch, Counterpoint Community Services and Shelter NSW have done so (see comments on the REDWatch website).

Visit to Riverwood
Fourteen residents from the Waterloo Estate along with staff from Inner Sydney Voice and Counterpoint went to Riverwood to visit the redeveloped social housing in Riverwood North, now Washington Park.

The redevelopment of Washington Park was not initiated under Communities Plus. However, it does have some similar characteristics. Washington Park has a 70:30 ratio of private to social housing and was redeveloped on the basis of no-net-cost to government. Furthermore, residents living in Riverwood North were given the option of relocating to the new Washington Park.

The purpose of the trip was to take residents on a tour of a social housing estate that has undergone redevelopment by the NSW government and to get some indication of what residents can expect following the Waterloo redevelopment. Participants had a fantastic day. The community housing provider, St George Community Housing (SGCH), gave a presentation on the history of the redevelopment and some of the services SGCH provides.

Three residents of Riverwood spoke, including one who had experienced relocation. Participants were taken on a tour of the estate including gardens and barbecue area, the library and community room, and the larger community garden run by Riverwood Community Centre. They were also taken into a new social housing apartment built to the platinum standard of “liveable housing”. It is interesting that only the silver standard is proposed for Waterloo.

There were a handful of takeaways for participants. The internal and external designs of the new social housing dwellings appeared to be of good quality. The social housing dwellings were indistinguishable from the private, and the interiors of the social housing apartments were spacious, with large balconies and good amenities. This seemed to alleviate concerns that social housing on the redeveloped Waterloo estate will be of a low quality.

Secondly, it was interesting to hear from a community housing provider about how it manages social housing in Washington Park, including maintenance, tenancy issues, services to social housing tenants, and integration of tenants from both SGCH and FACS housing with private owners. This information was beneficial because a community housing provider will potentially manage the social housing on the redeveloped Waterloo Estate.

Washington Park is located 23 km south-west of the Sydney CBD while Waterloo is 3.5 km from the Sydney CBD. Thus, Waterloo is more centrally located and subject to greater congestion, with encroachments including Green Square, Australian Technology Park and Zetland. A new metro station with 700 apartments is also planned.

The plans for Waterloo are markedly different. The tallest building in Washington Park is nine storeys, while Waterloo has plans for buildings of up to 40 storeys. Washington Park is much less dense with 825 dwellings compared to Waterloo’s proposed 6,800. Furthermore, a row of retail spaces remains unoccupied in the main square of the Washington Park. The recent amalgamation of Bankstown and Canterbury councils, resulting in a change in rental rates, was said to be the reason for the delay to this social enterprise.

New theatre project
Interim is a new performance work in development by Milk Crate Theatre in collaboration with Counterpoint Community Services (commissioned by 107 Projects). By addressing themes of bureaucracy, waiting and the unknown, this new project engages residents of the Waterloo Estate to discuss and explore emotions and questions regarding the redevelopment of their neighbourhood and homes.

“The redevelopment of Waterloo has been understandably divisive and emotionally taxing for residents, so it is great that residents have an opportunity to creatively express their views in such an open and safe environment while having fun at the same time. I cannot wait to see the final production,” said Michael Shreenan, Counterpoint Executive Officer.

There will be a public performance on Wednesday May 1. Updates will be posted on the Milk Crate Theatre website.

Housing and energy
On Thursday March 14, 1,901 people converged on Sydney Town Hall to secure new commitments to housing and energy policy ahead of the NSW and federal elections.
Groundswell attended the Sydney Alliance assembly to join the call for real change to housing and energy policy. The most moving moments of the night involved real stories from those subject to unaffordable energy bills and the devastating shortage of social and affordable housing in NSW.

Politicians from all sides made public commitments on these issues. To see what commitments were made, visit

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