Sydney City Council elections: activists champion housing action

A team of progressive activists has formed an independent “Housing Action” ticket to run in the September 8 council elections in the City of Sydney.

The united platform “Decent housing is a human right” is a further step towards practical unity between independent socialists and members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) and the Socialist Allliance (SA).

The team has come together to challenge City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore's pro-corporate development stance. It is also championing public housing and human rights over pro-development and big business.

The City of Sydney faces a housing crisis. An urban development report said that between 2009 and 2011 the metropolitan area had a housing shortfall of 33,000 homes. But Moore's council plans to demolish public housing and force low-income communities out of the area to make way for expensive private high-rise towers.

An example of this was the demolition of 134 low-rise Department of Housing homes in Glebe's Cowper and Elger streets last year, to make way for 10-storey towers with units and commercial space.

The current plan would only allow the rebuilding of a fraction of the public housing, and move most of those on low incomes out.

Labor and Liberal candidates have the same pro-profits agenda.

Housing Action decided to unite against this and support communities such as Redfern, Waterloo, Glebe, Erskineville and Alexandria that are battling to save their housing and resist high-rise.

It proposes to raise the proportion of public housing to 20%, allowing rents to fall to lower prices in the private sector. This would require a dramatic shift in the council's interests, and force it to stand up to the Coalition state government's privatisation of public services.

Along with housing and human rights, the group's platform includes Aboriginal rights, social justice and democracy.

Denis Doherty of the CPA will contest the mayoral position. Aboriginal activist Ray Jackson from the Indigenous Social Justice Association and Andrew Chuter who is active in Friends of Eskineville will contest council postions as will Raul Bassi and myself from the Socialist Alliance.

Housing Action says Sydney is wrought with traffic, noise, pollution and other problems because the council puts profits before people.

Doherty said: “We need a council that will listen to residents' concerns. All over Sydney, many Department of Housing flats are being torn down or sold off as council and the developers eye those sites for future high rise development.”

Housing Action's leaflet says: “Sydney city council should fight for more public housing. Instead, it is pursuing a 'social cleansing' agenda, cutting the proportion of public housing in the City from 10.4% (2006) to 5.7% as part of the Council's 2030 vision. The council could afford to subsidise public housing; it chooses not to.”

Bassi said, “Housing Action is not a single-party ticket, but its platform calling for accountability, involving the community in decision-making and stronger public investment in housing and infrastructure shows that we all have common cause.”

The Socialist Alliance has been inspired by and involved in unity work including the Community Voice ticket in Wollongong that brought together socialists, independents, community workers and musicians to challenge the long-standing corrupt and unaccountable council.

Left Unity in Adelaide is another example of the left showing its collective strength.

[Jay Fletcher is a member of the Housing Action ticket. Visit Housing Action Sydney]