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Vinnies supports 3000 left homeless in redevelopment

The St Vincent de Paul Society has given its backing to community action opposing NSW Government plans to bulldoze the homes of 3000 people on a local public housing estate in Sydney's south-west.

A Vinnies statement says that members of the Minto community hosted their own conference - Minto: More than Bricks and Mortar - on Tuesday at the Campbelltown Catholic Club. The action is also being supported by five other community groups including UnitingCare Burnside.

The St Vincent de Paul Society is involved in community building and popular education initiatives in four public housing estates in the Campbelltown area.

"This redevelopment is the largest urban renewal project undertaken in the Macarthur district, and is just the first of a number of large scale public housing renewals planned by the Department of Housing," said Vinnies' Paul Power, who also represents the Macarthur Housing Coalition. "Over 900 families are currently affected by the decision to redevelop, yet none of them were consulted."

The Vinnies statement says this week's community-organised conference on public housing "puts the spotlight on what many "experts" promote as the quick fix to problems on large public housing estates".

"The conference aims to highlight some of the many issues affecting tenants and to explore ways in which Government policy on public housing renewal can be improved."

The statement stressed that the conference was not organised by the Government "or by academics like most conferences of this kind - but by the people directly affected by the redevelopment and a number of agencies who work closely with them".

"Tenants of the Minto public housing estate won't pull any punches when they speak about what has happened to their community and how they feel about it", says Paul Power.

A feature in The Australian today profiles Minto as the first of 49 NSW estates undergoing renewal, "as governments across Australia attempt to unscramble policies that have diminished public housing stock and transformed the social mix from aspirational working-class families to a concentration of disadvantaged or 'special needs' tenants".

Julian Disney, of the University of NSW Social Justice Project, chaired Tuesday's forum at the Campbelltown Catholic Club. He is urging governments to broaden the mix of tenants, improve and expand existing stock, end tax havens that distort the private property market and introduce a range of incentives to encourage commercial and public partnerships for housing development.

NSW Housing Minister Joe Tripodi has admitted that past consultation was defective. Stubbs says there is reason to hope that after Minto there will be less indiscriminate bulldozing and more careful renewal of housing estates.

Last month's successive nights of youth clashes with police on the streets of Macquarie Fields in Sydney's south-west was blamed on a poor socio-economic mix in the population.

Reflecting on the Macquarie Fields incidents, Fr Peter Norden of Jesuit Social Services put the cause down to factors such as early school leaving, low job skills, long-term unemployment, criminal convictions and imprisonment.

He pointed to the need to build community leadership, pointing out that "the majority of Australians have increased their prosperity in the last 10 years, but that wealth definitely hasn't been shared throughout the community."

3000 people left homeless from Minto redevelopment (St Vincent de Paul Society 12/3/05)
Out the door (The Australian 17/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Vincent de Paul Society

Jesuit postcode explanation for Sydney suburban violence (CathNews 29/3/05)

17 Mar 2005