Troubled housing estate turns over radical Newleaf.
September 19, 2009 // IBM BLOG POST
MICHELE CURRY has lived on the Bonnyrigg public housing estate for more than 25 years, but for the first time this month she got to pick the colour of her carpet. The disability pensioner is one of more than 700 tenants who are preparing to move into a unique redevelopment on the old site completed by a consortium of private and non-profit companies that mixes public and private dwellings. It has been touted by the state and federal governments as the future of community housing. ”Before when you got a place, that was it. If you don’t like it, that’s too bad,” Ms Curry said. ”I liked that I got to pick the colours, that I can think, ‘That’s mine.’ ”
The $733 million redevelopment, called Newleaf Bonnyrigg, will contain a mix of 70 per cent private and 30 per cent community houses, built in streetscapes redesigned to eliminate the classic features of public housing blamed for contributing to crime. For residents like Ms Curry, it is a step into the unknown. ”I’m thinking people will judge you on where you come from,” she said. ”But I try and be positive and say it cannot be any worse than it is; it has to be better, doesn’t it?”
The project is the first public-private partnership of its kind and is being completed by a consortium of private companies: Westpac, Spotless and the troubled property developer Becton. The land is being leased by Housing NSW, but the public dwellings will be managed by the non-profit organisation St George Community Housing Ltd. The first display homes opened to the public this week. The federal Housing Minister, Tanya Plibersek, said that as people eventually moved in, the eyes of other state governments would be on Bonnyrigg. ”Other states that have similar big, whole suburbs of public housing will look at this and what’s learnt here,” she said.
The chief executive of Shelter NSW, Mary Perkins, said she was pleased to see the consortium had been careful to accommodate residents’ concerns throughout the redevelopment process. ”Our concern is that some of the good practice that’s been created in doing this be replicated into the future,” she said. The previous estate had been built to the notorious ”Radburn” design, an American model for housing estates featuring inward facing houses, empty spaces and cul-de-sacs, that had been blamed for fostering anti-social behaviour.
The project leader for the redevelopment, Andrew Brooks, from Becton, said one of the key elements of the redesign was to ”de-Radburnise” the estate. The consortium has a 30-year stewardship of the estate, which meant it had an interest in making sure it worked for all residents, the chief executive of St George Community Housing, Nazha Saad, said.
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