Community Housing: from Struggle Street to Social Benefit


The controversial SBS documentary Struggle Street might have showcased the worst aspect of life in Western Sydney and Mount Druitt, but the New South Wales government is hitting back against negative stereotyping of the outer suburbs with examples of affordable and innovative social housing that create jobs in the communities where they are built.

The state’s Minister for Social Housing, Brad Hazzard, and Minister for Skills, John Barilaro, have handed over the keys to two new dwellings acquired by the state’s Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) that have been built by students and apprentices under the close supervision of licenced tradespeople.

It’s a project that underscores the re-thinking of how public housing is delivered across Australia as state and local governments increasingly move away from centrally procured big builds of dwellings that use lowest cost developers to projects that aim to socially enfranchise often marginalised communities.

A historic challenge for social housing developments has been that cheaply built houses, flats and units in areas of high unemployment often used to bypass young job seekers and to save money, entrenching joblessness and welfare dependency.

Now the NSW government is trying to break that cycle, particularly in the Aboriginal community, by getting local people and job seekers to build new dwellings in the areas where they live.

Part of that push is a $43.1 million investment by the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) in the acquisition and construction of new social housing dwellings across NSW by the end of the 2014-2015 financial year.

It comes as the Baird government in NSW continues to cop flak over its disposal of inner city public housing in areas like habourside Millers Point in an effort to trade out of older, maintenance heavy buildings in favour of newer ones in mixed public-private developments.

According to Mr Barilaro, the state government is “focused on building the skilled workforce of the future” by deliberately pushing new partnerships to demonstrate “how skilled students can create a stronger, more connected community.”

“The project is an opportunity for students to develop their skills with hands-on experience and training while helping meet the demand for Social Housing,” Mr Barilaro said.

“The investment involved 36 pre-apprentice plumbers from Mount Druitt College – 12 of whom were Aboriginal pre-apprentice plumbers – and 45 pre-apprentice carpenters from Nirimba College.”

Another important feature of some of the new dwellings is that they have been purpose built to cater for people with a mobility disability by designing in wheelchair access, increased internal space for movement and ramp access.


The latest builds put on show by the state government are located in Cranebrook which borders on the Penrith Lakes and is a few suburbs west of Mount Druitt.

“The AHO identified the Cranebrook site as an ideal opportunity to help meet the local demand for housing and teach students, while working with the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) to design and construct the houses,” Mr Hazzard said.

The state Member for Penrith, Stuart Ayres, said the construction of the dwellings added new social housing options for two-bedroom accommodation in the local community where it is in demand.

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