Monday, 2 April 2012

Public Housing in Redfern and Waterloo

2 April 2012

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron) [12.24 p.m.]: Heffron is ranked first out of 93 State electorates as having the highest percentage of public housing. In particular, Heffron contains several high-rise estates in Redfern, Waterloo and Eastlakes, and low-rise estates in Waterloo, Daceyville, Erskineville and Mascot as well as properties throughout other suburbs. As the member for Heffron, I understand that social housing can provide significant challenges. I also know that it is home to vulnerable people, many of whom would be without housing otherwise. For many people in high-rise housing their communities have developed and flourished. In fact, years ago, so outraged were the elderly residents Matavi and Turunga in Waterloo about an untrue rumour that their high-rise buildings were to be demolished that I had to promise to chain myself to their buildings if the bulldozers ever came. These buildings are their homes.

A great project in Waterloo is being trialled: The Waterloo Green project installs concierge services and new security features in high-rise buildings. This project, introduced by the Keneally Government, is—according to my constituents—making a real difference to their personal security and to decreasing the levels of vandalism and graffiti in the building. The project, combined with a change to the law—also introduced by the Keneally Government—allows alcohol free zones to be introduced by council on Housing NSW land, and specifically on Waterloo Green. The trial is currently being evaluated. I hope the Government sees sense in continuing and possibly expanding this program.

I was interested to hear the comments of Minister Goward in this House on 28 and 29 March, when she proudly proclaimed the transformative changes she was introducing to the management of public housing, and what a significant difference it would make to tenants to have their maintenance issues addressed in a timely manner. I draw the following to the Minister's attention. On 30 March 2012 I held a meeting with public housing residents in Redfern. I remind the House that this was a full year after the election of the O'Farrell Government and a full year after Minister Goward stepped into the Housing NSW portfolio.

Tenants raised issues of antisocial behaviour in the three towers of Poet's Corner: drug dealing, sleeping in stairwells, residents being intimidated by drug dealers, security being a major issue, fire doors broken, no lights in Lawson building common areas and cleaners not reporting that lights were out. I was informed that lifts in the Kendall building were breaking down and unauthorised tenants were staying in the buildings. The McKell building was full of graffiti and pigeon faeces, it needed a handyman, and there were syringes in rubbish room. I also draw to the Minister's attention an email from Ross Smith, precinct representative of the People's Precinct Neighbourhood Advisory Board, Waterloo, to Housing NSW on 19 January 2012. Mr Smith stated that 33 John Street Waterloo, the Dobell building, had:
... non-functioning lock systems on perimeter doors leaving building with no security. Doors are not locked and can be opened by pushing on closed door.

This matter was originally raised with Housing NSW on 17 October 2011. Over the period various tenants have made multiple reports to the call centre. Mr Smith further stated:
... non-functioning lights in undercover parking area on Pitt Street extension frontage of building ...

It was originally reported to Housing NSW on 17 October 2011 and followed up on 18 October 2011. Tenants report that workmen attended three times, but lights were not restored to a functioning state. On 11 March 2011 in a follow-up email to Housing NSW Ross Smith wrote:

In the last few days the community room in the Dobell complex has been trashed, the broken window giving unfettered access to the room has not been repaired, and the room has not been cleaned up so that the restoration of community owned facilities in the room by the community can commence. There is now a group of juveniles running rampant throughout the complex. This is in no small part due to the ongoing failure of Housing NSW to restore the electronic door locks controlling access to the building to a functional state.

Further, he states:
Housing NSW actions in the cases above make a mockery of their oft repeated claim of wanting to engage with the tenants and actively undermine the efforts of other Housing NSW business units ...

What does it take for Housing NSW to resolve these longstanding matters? The tenants are fed up with being told, "You must ring the call centre," when they see every day that this course of action is not producing any results. The question in their mind is why should we bother when Housing NSW is not capable of producing an answer, despite all their glossy fact sheets and media releases. Is there any reason that these matters are still unresolved?
That is a very good question. And one that seems to remain unanswered. Mr Ross Smith again emailed me on 26 March 2012 and told me that he had no response from Housing NSW to date, which makes you wonder about the reality of Minister Goward's statements in this House on 28 an 29 March. It has been my great honour to represent the people of Redfern and Waterloo, to fight for better standards of living for them, to introduce programs like the Waterloo Green project, and, under the Keneally Government, to decide not to increase public housing single pensioners rent as their pensions were increased. I look forward to a time when housing residents in Redfern and Waterloo receive benefits from the O'Farrell Government. The extension of the Waterloo Green project would be great. Fixing some of the maintenance issues raised by the Waterloo People's Precinct would be a start.

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