By Ian Stephenson, President, Bulletin 5/2023, July
On 17 June Rose Jackson, the NSW Minister for Housing, announced that the Franklyn Street flats were to be retained. That’s great news. However, she also said that 82 Wentworth Park Road would be demolished and replaced by a new building. Her justification is that this will increase the supply of public housing.
Minister, this is not a good way to do this. The cost of demolition and rebuilding is nearly $22 million. Refurbishing and extending would be cheaper. In addition, demolition and rebuilding actually reduces the supply of public housing for a number of years while site clearance and construction occurs. The Land and Housing Corporation says tenants will have the ‘right of return’ to try and make it look as though the redevelopment is not driving people out of their homes. However, the new building will be mostly one-bedroom apartments with some studios and two bedders. The existing property includes five three-bedroom terraces. A family of four have lived there for 18 years – there’s clearly no right of return for them. Saying people have a ‘right of return’ is just weasel words.
More housing at lower cost can be provided by refurbishing the existing building and adding additional density at the rear of the site.
Hector Abrahams of Hector Abrahams Architects has generously prepared an indicative scheme for the Society showing how the existing building can be retained and additional density added sympathetically and in a way which respects the character of the precinct, the Lyndhurst Heritage Conservation Area.
Figure 2.The Abrahams scheme (left) echoes the terrace houses in Bellevue Street, unlike the block-like form (right) proposed by the Land and Housing Corporation.
Architect and urbanist Philip Thalis is also critical of the demolition approach noting that a ‘better solution on this site is to build 15-25 compact apartments on car parking at the rear of the site, which has a frontage to Bellevue Street. Could also convert 5 terrace houses to duplex flats. This could be done for likely $5-$6mill = same number for 1/3 cost, less demo/displacement’ (courtesy Twitter).
On 15 June 2023 I wrote to the Minister enclosing Hector Abraham’s scheme, advised her that we were in the process of obtaining detailed costings and requesting that, as a matter of urgency, she advise the City of Sydney that she wishes them to defer consideration of the Land and Housing Corporation’s development application for 82 Wentworth Park Road until the alternative option has been fully considered.
I wrote that the Glebe Society ‘sees this as an opportunity for the new government to show it is using its initiative and intellect to provide the best possible approaches to increasing the supply of public housing, including cost effective use of money, respecting tenants and the community, urban character as well as reducing greenhouse emissions by refurbishing and extending rather than demolishing’.
No reply has been received to our letter or a request for a meeting.
Our compatriot organisation Hands off Glebe is working hard to get a more rational solution at 82 Wentworth Park Road. Hands off Glebe describes itself as ‘a group of Glebe residents including private home owners and public housing tenants who work to maintain the ambience of Glebe as a place where people of all socio-economic status are appreciated’. You may have seen the Glebe Grapevine which Hands off Glebe distributes to every household in Glebe. They are ramping up their campaign for 82 Wentworth Park Road by distributing a flyer to all residents and producing a booklet based on the highly successful Franklyn Report. They would welcome donations to assist with the cost of printing. Donations can be sent to Hands off Glebe, BSB 659000, Account no 755116. For more information email Denis Doherty at email@example.com.
A Public Forum
Forty years ago the NSW Housing Commission employed in-house public servant architects. We can see the quality of their work in the beautifully designed infill public housing built in Glebe in the 1980s. They also employed maintenance people to look after the buildings they owned.
Over many years the government’s public housing agency (the Land and Housing Corporation) has deskilled itself. They can no longer design new houses and seem unable to maintain their properties – even basic things like keeping the gutters clean. They opt for the expensive option of demolition and building anew instead of repairing, refitting and extending. Their motto seems to be ‘if there is mould, knock the place down’.
A public forum exploring alternatives to demolition is being held at the Redfern Community Centre, 29-53 Hugo Street, Redfern, on Tuesday 18 July from 6 pm to 8 pm. Speakers include the Swedish architect Dr Hannes Frykholm and OFFICE Architects, a not-for-profit multidisciplinary design and research practice based in Melbourne.
An Exciting Project
For over 50 years the Society has been researching all aspects of Glebe, including land titles and subdivisions, people, architects, builders, occupations, events and historical images. As well, we have been proactive about planning and development and created wonderful events focussed on Glebe and Forest Lodge.
I am pleased to announce that the Australian Government Department of Social Services, under their 2022-2023 Volunteer Grants Program, have provided us with a grant of $2,500 to develop a research database and digital archive. Our goal is to ensure we preserve our precious research and make it easy to retrieve knowledge about Glebe using search terms such as street address, family name and occupation.
I would particularly like to thank our local member The Hon. Tanya Plibersek and her staff for their assistance with this exciting project.