Social housing is integral to Glebe and of vital interest to Glebe residents and hence to the Glebe Society. According to the Forest Lodge and Glebe Coordination Group (FLAG), around 4,000 people live in public housing in Glebe – about one third of Glebe’s population. The number of public housing dwellings in Glebe is estimated to be 1,424 which is 18% of public housing in the City of Sydney. Glebe as a community is committed to public housing, including the Glebe Estate which is fundamental to Glebe’s built and social character.

The NSW government has decided to develop a long overdue social housing policy. They produced a discussion paper on Social Housing in NSW and called for responses. The discussion paper and the Society’s response can be found on our website:

NSW Family and Community Services seems to have made up its mind that it won’t be spending any more money on social housing; instead it is considering how to ‘efficiently manage’ the social housing system within the Government’s ‘existing funding envelope’. The discussion paper calls for comments with a particular emphasis on ‘successful models, innovations or practices’. In our response, we tried to provide constructive suggestions to improve social housing in NSW – Glebe, in particular – that could reasonably be achieved within the ‘existing funding envelope’.

In many ways, Glebe has been a successful model for social housing. Residents benefit from living in a community that is richly endowed with services and a sense of community. The Glebe Society opposed changes to social housing that would see tenants moved to outer areas of Sydney where they would lose access to this social capital.

We also highlighted once again the appalling state of much social housing in Glebe which is bad for tenants’ health and bad for the beautiful heritage buildings that make up so much of our social housing.

Our submission raised strong objection to the lack of a strategic approach and forward planning in NSW social housing. This has had an unacceptable impact on tenants; for example, it’s an absolute scandal that social housing in Cowper Street has only just begun to be rebuilt after being demolished four  years ago.

Reading between the lines in the discussion paper, it is clear that the government is looking for ways to remove tenants whose behaviour is unacceptable to their neighbours. This is, of course, a significant problem, but we don’t believe the solution is to evict difficult residents, but rather to provide them with the necessary support to deal with the underlying issues that lead to such behaviour. The discussion paper acknowledges that providing such support is the role of the Department of Housing but that it often fails to deliver.

A big bugbear for the Society is the NSW government’s propensity to use the proceeds of social housing assets sales to fund Housing’s operating costs such as maintenance. We believe that all sale proceeds should be used to create additional dwellings.

The success of social housing in Glebe can be attributed in part to the cohesiveness of the Glebe community and its proximity to employment, education and training as well as to critical health and social services. Changes to the social housing system that jeopardise these in Glebe are likely to result in negative outcomes for social housing residents, and for the suburb as a whole.

Glebe is a strong, well-organised community that is willing to work with the NSW government to make our village an example of what social housing can be.

The demolition of the Cowper St public housing complex (image:
The demolition of the Cowper St public housing complex (image: