Anyone driving across Sydney Harbour Bridge can’t help but notice the Sirius apartments in The Rocks, a 1980s brutalist-style high rise that brushes up against the southern edge of the Bradfield Highway.
For decades, high in one window, a sign facing passers-by has proclaimed “One Way, Jesus”.
The 79-apartment complex was born out of the 1970s Green Bans, when the area was redeveloped and union leaders such as Jack Mundey fought to retain the historic inner-city suburb’s working class heritage and people.
But 40 years on, Mundey’s dream is over, with the NSW Government announcing plans to sell the site, owned by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, along with a number of heritage-listed public housing terraces worth an estimated $2 million each.
All up, 293 public housing properties, including 121 terrace houses around The Rocks and Millers Point will be sold off and 400 tenants will be moved out elsewhere over the next two years.
NSW Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward said the properties were being sold because they were worth a lot of money and the high costs of maintenance.
“Maintenance on properties in Millers Point costs more than four times the average for public housing dwellings in NSW. In the last 2 years alone, nearly $7 million has been spent maintaining this small number of properties” she said.
The Minister also pointed to the gap between market rents and the subsidised rent paid by public housing tenants, claiming Millers Point residents were being subsidised by up to $44,000 per year because the properties were worth $1000 a week, but residents were only paying a fraction of that.
“For every subsidised tenancy in Millers Point, the Government could assist 5 tenants in Warrawong, or 3.5 tenants in Newcastle or Minto,” she said.
“That money could have been better spent on building more social housing, or investing in the maintenance of public housing properties across the state,” Ms Goward said.
The Minister acknowledged that relocating residents who had lived in the area for decades “may be difficult”.
Nearly 10% of the tenants are over 80, but Ms Goward said in the last year several elderly tenants requested transfers to other areas to be closer to relatives or live in properties better suited to their needs.
“This decision was not taken lightly, but it is the right decision in the interest of a sustainable, fair social housing system which currently has more than 57,000 families on the waiting list,” she said.
The push to sell the properties goes back to 2009 under the former ALP government, butaccelerated two years ago, coinciding with the Barangaroo development’s gentrification of the area.
The money from the property sales will be used to fund other public housing projects.
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