A squat has been formed by community members in the public housing estate at 82 Wentworth Park Road in Glebe, in protest of its impending demolition. Occupying the hallways and backyard, the protesters are calling on the new NSW Labor government to scrap the development proposal and instead refurbish and expand the existing housing.
While the formal eviction is still upcoming, only three residences of the 17 are being lived in, as the Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) has begun to no longer allocate tenants to the building due to the redevelopment.
Speaking at a press conference outside the property today, Carolyn Ienna, a resident who was previously interviewed by Honi and has lived there for 30 years, said that the LAHC has “already broken the community at this point” and that their demolition of public housing is “disgusting”. Ienna commented that “it’s a perfectly good building, it needs some refurbishment, but nothing drastic,” disagreeing with the assertion by the LAHC that the estate is not fit for purpose.
Echoing this, Denis Doherty, a leading figure at Hands Off Glebe, quoted the original architect of the building, John Gregory, who said that it’s a “robust building that can easily last 140 years,” and that a renovation of the property could be undertaken for only $1.4 million, opposed to the $22 million proposal by the government. Doherty commented that beyond moral objections, the plan was economically unsound, given it will produce only an additional 26 bedrooms.
Doherty contrasted the mostly empty estate behind him and a cluster of tents underneath a railway bridge across the street, saying “this building can house 27 people. When can it house them? It can house them now.”
The City of Sydney’s Deputy Mayor and Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore said that it is “absolutely obscene to be evicting people from their homes during a housing crisis” and that people should have the right to live in the inner-city. She closed her speech by saying that the occupation of the building “is brave and powerful” and that the protesters “are going to win”.
Rachel Evans, a local activist and journalist, told Honi that two police officers had arrived the previous night to seek “assurances that we weren’t damaging the property.” She said that, so far, the squat protest was “going well”.
Additionally, speaking to Honi during a walkthrough of the building, Ellsmore commented that the government has abandoned its attempts to make new public housing comfortable, forcing people into cramped dwellings with inadequate community facilities to get “more bang for their buck.” During the visit, two LAHC employees were conducting maintenance on the site, which she found “strange”, considering their total lack of care for the property over the past 35 years. She joked that perhaps they’d secretly given into the demands of protesters and planned to move residents back in.
The squatters intend to occupy the building for the foreseeable future, after moving in yesterday. They are calling on all those available for night or day shifts to come by and add their names to the roster. They also challenged the NSW Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Rose Jackson, to speak to them personally.
Furthermore, they plan on holding a press conference at 12:30pm everyday to update their supporters on the situation, and also asked that the community attend the End the Housing Crisis Rally at 1pm on June 17 outside Town Hall.