Millers Point Social Housing Meeting

(10.30am, Wednesday 6 August 2014, Abraham Mott Hall)

Good morning, everyone, welcome to our meeting, the second this year for Millers Point residents.

This is a really difficult time for the people of Millers Point and I congratulate this community on your efforts to keep this special part of Sydney your home.

RELOCATIONS & SALES

On March 19, Minister Pru Goward announced the sales of 293 housing properties in Millers Point and The Rocks. These included 79 apartments in the Sirius building and a total of 214 heritage-listed properties. The Social Impact Assessment was made public on the Family and Community Services website at the same time as the Minister's announcement.

Ms Lynelle Briggs was appointed by Minister Goward as the independent facilitator for the sale and relocation program.

Along with our CEO, Monica Barone, and Alex Greenwich, the Independent member for Sydney, I met with Ms Briggs and the Land & Housing Corporation Deputy Director-General, Anne Skewes on June 20.

RELOCATIONS

Housing NSW appointed a dedicated team of 18 relocation officers and a social worker to relocate people living in the 293 tenancies. These officers report to a team leader who reports to Lynelle Briggs.

The relocation team has made contact with nearly all tenants. The few who have not responded have been sent letters asking them to allow the relocation person entry to their homes to see if they are okay and explain what services are available to help them with the relocation.

Most tenants have had an initial interview with the relocation staff. A range of detailed information is collected for each tenancy and used to make an appropriate offer when available. Support workers, neighbours and staff from Marrickville and Redfern Legal Centres have gone with tenants to some of these interviews.

Housing NSW introduced My Property Choice on May 13. This program aims to promote properties in other areas and to give tenants a bit more control in the relocation process. Initially, properties were shown every Tuesday, but this has now become every fortnight.

Tenants are shown between five and ten Housing NSW properties on a large screen as part of the open viewing process to determine if they would like to bid on a specific property or not. Each Friday of the same week, tenants are advised of their bid. If there are a number of bids on the same property, a ballot is held to select which tenants "wins" the property. Flyers are sent out the Friday before the viewings to inform residents of the locations and properties that will be shown so they are able to decide whether or not they would like to attend. Twenty-two tenants have been relocated so far through this program.

Overall, about 85 properties have been vacated since the announcement, with another 14 tenants who have accepted properties but have not yet moved.

The timeline for relocating residents still in their homes at the end of the two-year relocation period remains unclear.

Some residents have been concerned by offers of rehousing that are not linked to support services. In the light of this, Housing has met with stakeholders, including ACAT teams and community mental health teams, to ensure that residents who are relocated remain in contact with the services. This has raised concerns with residents about providing consent for Housing to have access to this information.

SALES PROGRAM

The sales program has begun with the advertisement of the six properties that were sold on July 12. These were numbers 11, 23 and 29 Lower Fort Street, 86 Windmill Street, 30 Argyle Place and 119 Kent Street. Further properties are coming on the market in the next months. There has been a lot of interest in these properties from individuals, developers and real estate, shown on the FACS website.

RESIDENT GROUPS

After the Minister's announcement of the sales, the Resident Action Group, the Committee of Residents and the Millers Point Public Housing Group have formed an alliance known as Millers Point Defence Group - now called the Millers Point Community Group.

The three groups meet together as one to share information.

A community picnic has been planned to be held at the Abraham Mott Hall and Village Green on September 14. About 500 residents are expected to attend as part of the combined campaign to support local Housing residents who are being relocated.

The Millers Point Estates Advisory board continues to meet monthly. This meeting is attended by Housing NSW relocation staff, Redfern Legal Service and others. At the July 16 meeting it was decided to open up this meeting for any interested tenant to attend, so if any of you are keen to be there, the next meeting is on Wednesday August 20, at 2pm in the Sirius building.

ALEX GREENWICH MP

Alex as the Member for Sydney continues to support tenants. He has written to Gabrielle Upton, who took over as FACS Minister after the March announcement, about lease arrangements for SHFA properties and High Street workers' flats. Alex also continues to raise questions in Parliament and to keep tenants informed of what he's doing.

CITY OF SYDNEY SUPPORT

The Harry Jensen Centre and Abraham Mott Hall continue to be open and available each week, operating beyond normal hours with additional staff available.

The City has provided extra funds for Redfern Legal Centre to establish the Millers Point Tenants Service. A team of advocates provides assistance to the tenants of Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks area who are affected by the relocation. Redfern Legal Centre hosts weekly sessions from 1-5pm on Wednesday and Friday in the Harry Jensen Centre.

The Centre is being well-used by residents and was the location for many of the initial interviews with the Housing relocation staff. After hours meetings as well as several large meetings in Abraham Mott Hall have also been held. Attendance at the centre doubled from April through to June, but it has since dropped off as most people now understand the relocation process and have had their interviews with Redfern Legal Centre.

A range of other programs are still delivered at the Harry Jensen Centre, including lunch-time meals Mondays to Fridays, computer tutorials, music sessions and AA.