The Baird Liberal Government Seize Their Chance
The announcement that Waterloo will be the site of Sydney Metro’s 31st station, winning out over Sydney University heralds a death knell for the infamous Waterloo towers (sometimes called the Suicide Towers). While the news of the Metro station is good news for the area, that is, any public transport investment in Sydney is good news – using it as an excuse to tear down the towers is drawing a long bow.
The Metro Station will be situated between Cope St and Botany Rd which does not even lie within the public housing area. It seems the Baird Liberal government have seen an opportunity to rid inner west Sydney of what it considers an indigenous problem. Pejorative terms are not spared when writing about Waterloo with articles about the area replete with terms such as malaise, slum, welfare trap, entrenched hotspot for drugs, crime and poverty, run down, notorious, gritty, etc. (Bajkowski 2016).
With the economy tanking and mining tax revenue running dry for governments and investors, medium-rise residential inner urban apartments have become the new gold-mines for developers seeking a quick buck. The new types of medium rise apartments have no character and look like they come from the same Mirvac catalogue. The same type of building is all over the world. They are the cheapest tendered options cutting every corner and never include passive green design. They are almost always the opposite of passive sustainable design.
Carl Elefante used the classic line, “The Greenest Building is the one already standing” and new research from the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Preservationnation.org 2012) supports this often quoted line. So why not build around the towers? There is plenty of space around them that could accommodate ample private housing. If the Baird government is so sure that professionals, downsizing retirees and low SES residents can all live happily together then why kick everyone out and then make them all move back in. Let them stay and build around them.
The towers and low-rise walkups currently accommodate around 4000 residents on 17 hectares. That’s approximately 23,529 people/km2. That’s double Australia’s most dense suburbs (i.e. Pyrmont or Surry Hills). Compare this with:
When we are desperately trying to densify our inner urban areas, how can this currently existing high density be a bad thing? Again, it is the type of population that the Baird government wants to be rid of. It is obvious the Baird Gov want high densities of professionals, hipsters (i.e. middle class people) not low-SES unemployed, drug dependent and disadvantaged. Although the Towers now are occupied predominantly by Indigenous Australians the complex was actually intended to house new Australian immigrants like the like the Swedes and British (Overell, 2015). It is worth considering what the government might think if the housing were full of European immigrants.
The towers may not be the prettiest site but they are no different than high rise apartments in other dense cities like Hong Kong or Beijing (or the Gold Coast). The walk up housing (low rise) are solid redbrick or concrete slab and are nicer than many new homes going up in more fancy suburbs.
The deal involves a mix of Public and Private where the Private apartment sales are to subsidise the Public housing. So that really sounds like the government is selling the land to developers as long as the developers price in the cost of building extra low-cost public housing. I cannot for the life of me see how developers who are trying to make the cheapest possible buildings for their private customers are going to build good quality (better than the existing solid redbrick) public housing. The current housing on site could easily be renovated/retrofitted, the grounds could be landscaped. community building initiatives could be better supported.
The government has promised the current residents that they can stay if they want to? Where? Where will 4000 mainly low SES residents find accommodation in Waterloo?
The excuse the government is using for the Razing of the Housing Complex is to make way for the Metro but the new metro station is not even within the public housing area. The complex will be razed to make way for developers. Another Zetland in inner western Sydney. Another developers dream of car dependency and socially isolating planning.
Bajkowski, J. (2016) Sydney’s new Metro line to raze infamous Waterloo towers – Government News. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.governmentnews.com.au/2015/12/sydneys-new-metro-line-to-raze-infamous-waterloo-towers/
Overell, C. (2016) Sydney’s Predominantly Indigenous Housing Blocks Praised For Cultural Sensitivity | The Betoota Advocate. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.betootaadvocate.com/uncategorized/sydneys-predominantly-indigenous-housing-blocks-praised-for-cultural-sensitivity/
Preservationnation.org (2016)National Trust for Historic Preservation. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/sustainability/green-lab/lca/The_Greenest_Building_lowres.pdf#.VvkdYT_fR_s