The bulldozer is on the block

The bulldozer is on the block
Simon Harvey

Anyone who follows “the news” will know there is almost a sense of panic within government ranks in relation to the provision of housing.

There is also a heap of private concern (if not panic) about residential security, rents, house prices … and the general cost of living.

We, the public, are not in “the driver’s seat” of the bulldozer, we are standing in the road, weighing up which way to jump.

It was no surprise to read two articles in the October edition of North West City News by the Public Housing Resident Network’s Corey Memory and Greens leader Adam Bandt condemning the government assault on public housing.

At a recent Kensington Community Network meeting we heard the story of Homes Victoria visiting public housing tenants requiring them to make decisions about their future in lieu of the government plans.

The tenants, above all, are caught in the middle of the road, wondering which way to jump, crying out for whatever limited legal support is available to them.

Corey Memory calls some proposed new buildings “relocation camps” because they will facilitate the progressive demolition of public housing towers. A less savoury analogy comes to mind for me, that of herding cattle from one agistment to another.

The government is in danger of repeating mistakes similar to the public housing lockdowns during the early months of COVID, not consulting with and listening to the long-established public housing communities. Instead, the government is treating them like cattle.

Failure to recognise the real human connections in public housing communities is insulting.  It will also squander much political capital. The possibility of refurbishment of some public housing buildings, on a case-by-case basis, should be seriously considered. This was done with considerable success some years ago in Kensington.

The “bulldozer” metaphor applies more widely to the government in relation to planning policy. Recent changes, also a legacy of the “Big Build” and housing supply panic, means that local government powers in the planning and construction pipeline have been curtailed, and transferred to the Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny.

This effectively means that the ability to have local input into planning and construction will be significantly diminished. The unspoken message: “we know best, we have the big picture”, is no different from the modus operandi of totalitarian states.

NIMBYism is often wrongly blamed for lack of housing supply, when it is manipulation of land supply and development timelines which clog the supply chain and stack the cards in favour of developer profits.

There are new planning regulations within the Macaulay Structure Plan which have been held back by the government, they are more sympathetic to liveability factors – height, bulk, open-space, sunlight, etc., – funny that! I’m 100 per cent sure if the sympathy trend was towards developer advantage those regulations would already be on the books.

To finish on a more “sunny” note, we have recent news that development of a public open space at the east end of Chelmsford St in Kensington has been opened for consultation. •

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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