By Allan Hogan, Editor, Bulletin 5/2023, July

In June 2015, Chris Minns, then the new MP for Kogarah, said ‘there are too few people living in Balmain, and it is ridiculous that vast tracts of Newtown and Glebe have maximum height limits of two storeys’.  He was attacking the Greens for ‘frustrating development proposals in their own backyard while demanding the rest of Sydney take the overflow’.  So, when the NSW Labor leader announced his government’s new housing policy recently, it can’t be said we didn’t see it coming.

If developers plan for 15% affordable housing and the project costs more than $75 million, they will get access to a 30% floor space bonus, and a height bonus of 30% above the height permitted under the controls set by local council environment plans.

With 60,000 people on the NSW Government’s housing waiting list, and people often waiting five to ten years for social housing to become available, it’s clear there’s a problem.  But not everyone agrees that higher density housing is the solution.  Others accept the need for higher density housing but maintain there needs to be corresponding plans for the infrastructure and social amenities that will be needed to support denser living.  And so far, we haven’t heard those plans.

There’s no doubt that the heritage and historical landscape of Glebe and Forest Lodge is threatened by the new policy.  Organisations like the Glebe Society are often criticised for having what is said to be a NIMBY view of the need for denser living near the inner city.  But the Glebe Society is in favour of making more social and affordable housing available in our community, and keeping what we already have.  

Developers don’t have a great track record in building creatively-designed places for people to live in.  To quote a Sydney Morning Herald editorial from 20 June, ‘developers have undermined the case for higher densities with unattractive and sometimes poorly constructed residential buildings. Too often new housing developments have not been accompanied by effective urban planning to ensure high public amenity’.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore welcomed the government’s plan but pointed out that the incentives would allow developers to increase their height and floor space by an alarming 30% of those permitted under local planning controls. ‘This means a 100-metre building would become 130 metres high, while the density of each development would increase significantly, without extra Affordable and Social Housing’ she said.

Contacted by the Bulletin, Kobi Shetty, the member for Balmain said, ‘finding affordable and secure housing in Sydney is harder than ever, and yet the government continues to foster a system which is geared towards developer profits rather than community needs’.

‘The Greens welcome the Minns Labor Government’s intention to boost affordable housing supply – but a 15% affordable housing target is far too low, a 15- year limit on affordability is far too short, and we need such targets to apply to all development, not just the big players who are keen to build out our suburbs at a rate that our services and facilities are unable to keep up with’.

‘Where affordability is concerned, we are pushing for public land to be set aside for 100% public housing and a legislated 30% affordable housing mandate for all new developments, without the need for density bonuses or other incentives’.

Caroyln Ienna speaking at the protest at the proposed demolition of 82 Wentworth Park Rd.  Image: Robbie Mason City Hub.

The Glebe Society is joining other community groups in opposing the demolition of 82 Wentworth Park Road, suggesting instead renovating the present building for continuing use for social housing.  Kobi Shetty says, ‘regarding the property at 82 Wentworth Park Road in Glebe, I am urging the minister to consider the alternative option put forward by the Glebe Society to increase the number of dwellings while avoiding demolition’.