Sabtu, 14 Januari 2012

End of an era

The Herald reports today that

THE era of big, new public housing estates is over, according to the state's Finance Minister - with the O'Farrell government to pursue new public-private partnerships to redevelop NSW's biggest estates to include a mix of public and private housing.

The paper quotes Finance Minister Greg Pearce:

''It's finished. It's a proven failure, it's a proven failure in other parts of the world. It just creates cycles of disadvantage and it can't be managed,'' he said.

(... and the start of the era, 100 years ago: the plan for Daceyville)

The era of big new public housing estates really ended in the 1980s, with the completion of the last of the large 'Radburn' estates, such as Rosemeadow and Ambervale in western Sydney. (If you want to put a single date on it, the era ended 1 January 1985, when the old NSW Housing Commission was abolished and replaced by the Department of Housing. According to Frank Walker, the Housing Minister at the time, one of the new Department's first achievements was to stop building large estates.)

And ever since, Housing Ministers from both sides of politics have proclaimed that the estates are 'a failure', a 'failed social experiment', etc etc. Meanwhile, closer to the ground, the DoH (lately restyled Housing NSW) has set about improving, regenerating, renewing and 'de-Radburnising' the estates, and in the course of which has conducted hundreds of community consultation sessions in which the estate form and, in particular, 'Radburn' is condemned, almost ritualistically: the dread beast sliced to pieces in powerpoint slides, and community members inculcated in how to scrutinise the estate as a text of 'broken windows', 'indefensible spaces' and crimes waiting to happen.

It's true that the estates have more than their share of problems, and that there may be benefits to particular areas, and to the social housing system generally, from a program of redevelopments; but it is also true that many people make their homes on the estates, and raise their families there... and indeed make a success of it.

So it's important to be respectful of the estates as peoples' homes, both in the planning and conduct of redevelopments, and in talking about them generally.

Perhaps its time to declare the end of the era of declaring the end of the era of large public housing estates.