Issue #1565 19 September 2012
A decent home is a human right
“The availability of affordable public housing is far more important than profits for developers. A decent home is a human and a democratic right. The Sydney Council needs to be more active in providing public housing to help relieve the current housing crisis and to make sure that people can live in Sydney regardless of their income level. I believe that Denis Doherty and the Housing Action team have excellent policies.” Jack Mundey
More than 20 percent of people in private housing in Sydney are under housing stress, spending 30 percent or more of their weekly income on housing. Tenants face increasing insecurity as the Liberals, ALP and Clover Moore drive them out of Sydney to make way for private developments.
City of Sydney Housing Action Candidate Denis Doherty on the campaign trail in Surry Hills.
Responding to this situation, the CPA’s Port Jackson Branch decided to build on its local campaign for public housing and against the privatisation of public land by standing Denis Doherty as a candidate in the September 8 local government elections.
The Branch work was being done with Hands off Glebe, a community group formed out of contacts made at the 2010 Federal election.
Joan, a public housing tenant who was forced to leave her home in Glebe after 43 years to make way for the bulldozers, said: “When they came to bulldoze our homes and they destroyed our community, only Denis Doherty and the Hands off Glebe group tried to help us. We know they will stand by you.”
An approach from the Socialist Alliance led to the formation of a broad ticket with CPA, SA and independent members.
With Sydney District Committee endorsement of the broad ticket, Housing Action was formed and the campaign got underway.
Housing Action’s primary aim was to run an effective political campaign to raise the issues of the destruction of public housing and the privatisation of public lands in Sydney in the interests of corporate developers.
“We achieved this aim,” Denis Doherty told The Guardian.
“At the start of the campaign, staffers from the other parties told us there were no votes in housing.
“But by the time of a forum on August 21 the only candidate to express unqualified support for the Cowper Street project was outgoing Mayor Clover Moore. Every other candidate was critical of the proposed development.
“This was a major shift for Labor and Liberal who voted in favour of the project in the past,” Comrade Denis said.
In June 2011 demolishers tore down 134 flats and ripped out 170 trees in a quiet cul de sac in Glebe. The plan is to rebuild some public housing on a portion of the site and to sell off the rest to a private developer.
Twenty three thousand leaflets were distributed by comrades from both parties and a larger number of supporters. They were letterboxed with thousands of smaller inserts, dealing with specific local issues, in appropriate areas of the electorate.
The City of Sydney is a huge electorate and Housing Action also campaigned for the re-introduction of wards to help make councillors more accessible and responsive.
“In our leaflets we argued that council is an extension of the community,” Denis explained.
“We called for regular ward meetings for transparent, participatory democracy and argued that councillors should live in the ward they represent, be more action oriented and involve the community in decision-making.”
In the Erskineville and Alexandria area, Housing Action’s campaign pointed out that the diverse village character of the community is under threat from corporate overdevelopment on one hand, and under-investment in public services on the other.
“We opposed any increase on the five-storey plan at Ashmore Estate and demanded that at least ten percent of the development must be public and ten percent affordable housing,” Denis Doherty said.
“We called for open space on the Ashmore Estate’s to be doubled.
“With peak hour trains already at 180 percent of capacity, we campaigned for rail and bus services to be increased.”
In Redfern the Housing Action team was led by local indigenous activist Ray Jackson.
Our campaign stressed that Aboriginal people have an important and historical presence in all areas of the Sydney City Council and Council has a special duty of care towards the land’s traditional owners.
The Housing Action team and its campaign committee worked amicably and efficiently together.
“We believe this was a real step forward for left unity in Sydney,” Comrade Denis said.
“We are already planning to meet to discuss how we can work together again on other issues of importance for the working people of our city.”
Housing Action won 764 votes which is 1.16%.
Next article – Julian Assange presented with Aboriginal Nations Passport
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