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Public housing ‘will be ghettos’

McKenzie Street resident Liz Dillon is upset by the new development being built beside her house.
McKenzie Street resident Liz Dillon is upset by the new development being built beside her house. DAVID NIELSEN

EIGHT new public housing projects across the Northern Rivers are doomed to become ghettos because the State Government forced through approvals without consulting local councils, an anti-development group has warned.

Sydney-based group Residents Against Inappropriate Development has bought into the Northern Rivers development debate, slamming a series of Housing NSW developments in Lismore, Ballina, Casino and Byron Bay which were funded through the Federal Government’s stimulus package and forced through without council approval.

The department says it notifies neighbouring residents about the developments and gives them 21 days to comment, but Lismore resident Liz Dillon said the first she knew of the eight-unit complex going in next door to her NSW Housing-owned McKenzie Street home was when a couple of blokes turned up and announced they were going to pull down her fence.

That was before Christmas and since then her family has watched as the asbestos-fibro shack next door was demolished and replaced with concrete footings for one of eight new public housing projects across the region an anti-development unit has warned are doomed to become ghettos.

Ms Dillon said the work had hospitalised her four-year-old son after he had a severe asthma attack during the demolition and inundated their NSW Housing-owned home with cockroaches, mice and spiders fleeing the ruins.

The NSW Housing website shows approvals for developments at Tamar Street, Ballina; Browning Street, Byron Bay; McKenzie and Dibbs streets, Lismore; and McDougall, Stapleton, Waratah and Wheat streets in Casino. Each development involves a block of between five and 12 one and two-bedroom units that were approved between late October and late December last year. Several were ticked off by the department only a couple of days before Christmas.

When The Northern Star contacted the mayors of Lismore, Richmond Valley, Ballina and Byron councils, most were unaware of the new developments planned for their communities, even though work had already begun on some.

Only Byron mayor Jan Barham knew of the public housing development planned for her shire.

Ballina mayor Phillip Silver and Councillor Robyn Hordern knew of a similar development already under construction in Ballina, which was approved around August, but not of the one approved for 165 Tamar Street on December 17.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said affordable housing was welcome, but questioned the wisdom of leaving councils out of the decision-making process.

“It’s always a concern when local councils are frozen out,” she said. “We want local communities to see what’s proposed, because once it’s up there’s very little councils can do.”

Cr Silver said a similar development in Burnet Street had been pushed through by the State Government and was looked at by the council, and would not have been approved had it gone before the council – largely because of a lack of parking.

However, Cr Barham, while unhappy with planning decisions being taken from councils, said Byron Shire Council might well have approved the seniors apartment block planned for Browning Street. Cr Barham said affordable housing remained a major issue in Byron Bay and the Browning Street development ticked the right boxes in terms of easy access to infrastructure, such as shops and medical services.

Tom Geroulas, of Residents Against Inappropriate Development, based at Ryde in Sydney, said similar developments were being repeated across NSW after the Commonwealth offered the State close to $2 billion in stimulus money for public housing – which meant a tight deadline on getting the new homes built.

“I think what they are building is totally inappropriate for the low-density areas that are being targeted,” Mr Geroulas said.

“I can’t see them becoming anything other than a congested ghetto environment.”

NSW Housing was still preparing a response to questions about the developments last night, but sources within the Government said the Federal funding offered the State the chance to provide homes for 39,000 people currently on long public housing waiting lists.

There were also claims the Ryde group was a Liberal Party front with the specific aim of discrediting the Government. Mr Geroulas strongly rejected that claim. He agreed the ‘ghetto blasters’ had support from the local Liberal State MP and the Liberal-dominated Ryde Council, but insisted it was non-partisan.

The projects

TOWN    STREET       APPROVEDSIZE

Ballina   165 Tamar St    Dec 17   7 units

Byron Bay  22-26 Browning St   Nov 17   12 units

Lismore  30-32 Dibbs St    Oct 23   5 units Lismore  76-78 McKenzie St   Oct 23   8 units Casino   23-25 McDougall St Dec 16   7 units Casino   76-78 Stapleton St  Nov 2    8 units

Casino   11-13 Waratah St   Dec 23   10 units

Casino   14-16 Wheat St   Nov 17    9 units



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