Action for Public Housing hosted a National Housing Justice summit at the Sydney Maritime Union of Australia branch on 8 October. It called for substantive reform to rectify the worsening state of the housing crisis, with each speaker presenting different strategies to work towards housing justice.
Adam Antonelli, a Public Policy Masters student at USyd, chaired the panel. Antonelli highlighted that the sell-off of public housing results in “key workers, including nurses and teachers, no longer living close to their workplace”.
Carolyn Ienna, a stalwart public housing activist — recently evicted from 82 Wentworth Park Road — made evident that First Nations communities are at the front lines of the public housing demolitions.
Paul Keating, Sydney branch Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, acknowledged the response to these demolitions and the housing crisis, more broadly, asserting that “what we need to do is blockade, what we need to do is fight back”.
Ishbel Dunsmore, Sydney University SRC Education Officer, indicated that the crisis most affects the oppressed and young people. Dunsmore also condemned the Housing Australia future Fund (HAFF), questioning Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather, after the Greens facilitated its passing and sold-out renters. Finally, Dunsmore spruiked the Get a Room protest against private student accommodation suppliers on Friday, 3 November.
The summit then took questions from the floor. Wendy Bacon, a journalist and activist, argued that the current slate of housing policies were engineered to preserve corporate profits, which it has done successfully.
Former University of Sydney SRC Education Officer, Deaglan Godwin, reiterated the importance of “getting out into the streets” to demand housing justice, rather than relying on convincing Labor. Zach Smith, Construction Forestry Mining Maritime Energy Union National Secretary, suggested political education as a roadmap out of the housing crisis.
Chandler-Mather was asked to justify the Green’s concession on the HAFF. He suggested that there has been a considerable increase in the support of a rent freeze, though, admitted that there exists an “emboldened movement angry that the Greens did not achieve rent freezes”. Chandler-Mather maintained that parliamentary solutions must work in tandem with grassroots organising. In response, Dunsmore demanded a commitment from the Greens for legitimate housing justice policies.