Shelter NSW has produced a factsheet for public tenants facing redevelopment which we have reproduced below. In short it encourages tenants to stay informed, have your say, assert your rights and to come together.
A number of public housing estates have been redeveloped in NSW in the past decades, others are in the middle of redevelopment projects right now. The NSW Government’s recently released strategy, Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW, suggests that there will be a lot more in the next ten to twenty years.
How well (or badly) this goes for tenants depends a lot on good communication. Tenants should expect, and ask for, up-to-date information on plans for their homes and suburbs, a chance to have a meaningful say in these plans and a respectful process for meeting their needs in the midst of redevelopment.
You should expect to have good information about Government plans well before they happen. This information can come in a number of ways.
- In mail-outs sent directly to you.
- In flyers available in public places like libraries, shopping centres and government offices.
- At community meetings and information sessions in your neighbourhood.
- On the internet, both via the official Department site and via social media.
- Through your regional Family and Community Services (FACS) office, or for larger projects through a special office set up to manage the project.
You should expect clear information, in writing and in person, on what the plans are, why this is happening, when it will happen, where changes will take place at what time, who is responsible and how you can find out more or have your say.
You have a right to know what’s going on, so if you are not receiving information, or you don’t understand the information you have received, ask your local FACS office or your elected State representative.
Having Your Say
Tenants and residents have a right not only to good information, but to a genuine say in what will happen to their homes, neighbourhoods and communities. You shouldn’t just be presented with a final plan; you should be given a chance to influence what goes into that plan. You should expect to be consulted early, while plans are still being formed, and often as plans develop and change. You should expect your views and those of other tenants to be taken seriously and result in real changes to the project.
There are a number of ways this can happen, and it might be different in each community. You might see:
- Written surveys (on paper or online) asking you what you think about plans for your suburb.
- Community meetings and workshops to discuss the project.
- Information/consultation stalls in public places where you can discuss your ideas one on one with staff.
- Formal advisory groups or reference groups where community representatives have a chance to discuss the project as it develops.
You should expect that consultation events will be conducted in plain English (not technical gobbledygook), provide interpreters in major community languages if a lot of residents speak a language other than English, be held in venues that are accessible to people with disabilities and older people, and be run in a way that is respectful of community input. You should also expect that tenants will be supported to participate – that transport and other “out of pocket” costs will be met
Asserting Your Rights
If you are affected by a redevelopment and either have to move out of your home, or will have significant disruption around your home, then you have a right to a number of things. The Department should assign a single person to work with you and make sure you get these things. They should also give you written notice of key events that will affect you.
The Department should give you lots of notice if you need to move, either permanently or temporarily. They have promised at least six months’ notice. If you don’t have to move but there will be disruption to your home (for instance, because of road works or interruptions to power and water supply) you should be given warning of these things ahead of time.
If you need to move out of your home, either permanently or temporarily, as part of a redevelopment, the Department should give you a choice as to where you go, and make every effort to find somewhere that fits your needs.
You should get help with your move or with managing the impacts of redevelopment. For a move, the Department should meet any reasonable costs like removal and storage fees, power and water connection fees and so forth. You may also need physical help with these tasks – don’t be afraid to ask for it! If you need to move suburb, they should also give you good information about your new neighbourhood, including things like public transport routes and community services and facilities.
If things go wrong – for instance if people turn up to do work without notice, or the impacts are much bigger than you were told they would be – there should be a person you can call who is responsible for helping to fix it.
You can interact directly with the Department and its contractors as an individual, but sometimes there is strength in numbers. Most public housing estates have active tenant and resident associations. These are open to any tenant. Get involved and help present a united front in negotiations about your community. If the government slips up during the redevelopment, it is these groups who will hold them to account and negotiate for a better response.
This article is reproduced from the Shelter NSW Factsheet Redevelopment of public housing estates – Staying Informed, Having Your Say, Asserting Your Rights, Coming Together
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