The NSW government wants to demolish public housing in Waterloo, which is currently home to around 4,000 tenants. Six towers and hundreds of homes are to be destroyed in order to make way for private investment and a new Metro train line.
In response, residents and community supporters have set up a Waterloo tent embassy. Aunty Jenny Munro, veteran Aboriginal activist, told Red Flag that the plans would be the “death knell for this community … It is 100 percent social housing – that is, housing for the poor”. Plans to establish 70 percent private and 30 public housing in its place are tantamount to a “new class war”.
Munro explained that current plans for gentrification were part of a strategy to ethnically cleanse the area – the latest chapter in the ongoing purges of the Aboriginal community from the Block and surrounding areas in Redfern and Waterloo.
The Waterloo towers and surrounding areas used to house thousands of Aboriginal residents; now there are only 300 left after successive state governments pushed people to outer western Sydney.
Residents of the towers are angry that, despite government rhetoric, there has been a complete lack of consultation and transparency over the entire process. “These plans have nothing to do with better housing – it is about corruption and greed”, Munro said.
Richard Weeks, the chair of the Waterloo Public Housing group and a resident of the towers, said that the blocks had been deliberately run down so that they could be condemned – part of the long term plan to force current residents out.
Some of the residents have had to contend with gas leaks for four years; others have had continuous flooding in their homes for 19 months. Nothing has been done about these and dozens of other serious maintenance issues.
Munro was defiant regarding the expected demolitions. She said that the tent embassy would continue until residents were given a real say over the future of their homes and their community.