Friday, November 9, 2012

A bit of perspective with the International Union of Tenants (part 1)

Yesterday we had the pleasure of hosting Mr Magnus Hammar, General Secretary of the International Union of Tenants, for a day in Sydney. Mr Hammar is touring the east coast of Australia following his address to the 7th National Housing Congress in Brisbane last week.

We started the day with a drive out to Rosemeadow/Ambarvale and Claymore, where we met and talked with local tenants, and caught up with staff of the South Western Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service.

Residents of Rosemeadow/Ambarvale spoke of their resolve in the face of redevelopment, and the relocations that they felt forced into by their landlord - Housing NSW. Their stories gave us a stark reminder that restrictions on eligibility for social housing, combined with limits on the availability of appropriate housing for people with mental illness or disability, can lead to dysfunction and despair within the neighbourhood. Sometimes this system fails just about everybody - and it's no wonder that long-established tenants express reservations when told they must move away from all that they know and love.

Residents of Claymore told a slightly different story, borne of a different set of circumstances. For these tenants, redevelopment and relocation remain an unrealised threat to the community that has been their home for 30 years or more. Some homes have already been demolished, but the funds required to rebuild those places have not yet materialised. Many doubt they will ever see the brand new houses that have been promised, and in the meantime the uncertainty sees their local infrastructure continue to deteriorate. But these tenants know that no matter what conditions are like on the outside, their community comes from what's inside their homes and gardens, across the many winding streets of their town.

We then traveled back into town for a look at some of the heritage listed public housing buildings in Millers Point, many of which face the continued threat of sale by the NSW Government ...

... and the iconic Sirius Building on Cumberland Street, The Rocks: built to replace stock that was demolished in the 1970's, before green bans were imposed and the wholesale redevelopment of this historic area was stalled ...

But then it was time to let Magnus do some of the talking. We stopped in at the Customs House Library to hear some of Mr Hammar's perspectives of how rental housing in Australia compares to housing markets in Europe.

It was interesting and informative stuff. We'll leave you for now with a few of the slides from Mr Hammar's presentation, for a bit of an impression of where Australia fits into the global picture. We'll return with more details on this international perspective in a later post.

But first - we must express our heartfelt thanks to the tenants of Rosemeadow/Ambervale and Claymore for having us over, and to Mr Hammar for sharing some of his time in Australia with us.


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