Thurs 22nd Sept Community Meeting Report

Thurs 22nd Sept Community Meeting Report


  1. A large group of concerned residents gathered at the Marrickville Bowling Club community meeting, many from streets targeted for uplift under the Marrickville Urban Design Study.
  2. The LEP process (of which the Urban Design Studies are a part) has been halted. It was halted to allow Councillors to receive legal advice about potential conflicts of interest.
  3. After hearing concerns from Save Marrickville and many local residents, the IWC mayor asserted that: 1. the Marrickville Urban Design Study as placed on exhibition, will not proceed in its exhibited form; 2. IWC will request the State Government allow a new plan, involving genuine community engagement; and 3. that plan would seek to consider the whole LGA rather than just 3 targeted areas.
  4. Affordable housing was a major concern; it was agreed that an increased supply of apartments built by private developers is not going to solve the problem (because developers will only build in markets where prices are rising, not falling). Residents, councillors and Save Marrickville members all agreed that other solutions are needed (e.g. more public housing, social housing, improved renters’ rights, tax reform). For Save Marrickville’s position, please read on for a detailed discussion on this issue.
  5. Major efforts are needed with Councillors and Council staff to arrive at a community backed LEP for the inner west. The LEP needs to genuinely reflect the community, (placing community principles first, and engaging with the entire community, including CALD citizens and others less able to access or interpret planning documents.
  6. We would like to thank Mayor Darcy Byrne, Councillors Jess D’Arienzo, Mat Howard, Justine Langford and Mark Drury for attending the meeting. 
  7. We would also like to thank the Representatives from the Marrickville Heritage Society and from Save Dully who attended and spoke at the meeting.

Full Report

A group of 70+ people attended our community meeting on Thursday 22nd September. Kelsie Dadd and Paul Mortimer from Save Marrickville addressed the group.

Kelsie and Paul explained that the Marrickville Urban Design Study and other studies had been halted. Under a motion from the Mayor at the recent Council meeting held on Tuesday 13th September, Councillors unanimously voted to pause the process. All documentation (including the Urban Design Studies and the Heritage Study) have been removed from Council’s website.

SM decided to hold the meeting regardless of the pause due to the considerable confusion and concern in the community. This was a chance to let everyone know where things are at. 

In brief, Save Marrickville’s top level concerns with the paused Urban Design Study are:

  • Densification is only concentrated in 
    • Marrickville 
    • Dulwich Hill 
    • North Ashfield
  • High-density development occurring in residential areas
  • Building heights too high, creating dark, windy spaces, particularly along Illawarra Rd (given it is narrow)

Kelsie and Paul asked the audience to share their concerns and give feedback, so that the Save Marrickville group can accurately represent the community. Principles for appropriate development, generated by Save Marrickville back in 2017 in response to plans for the Sydenham to Bankstown Renewal strategy, were described to the audience. These principles, which remain Save Marrickville’s current position, are:

– Development in scale with the streetscape;

– No higher than 5 storeys, with 2 storeys at street front;

– Compelling developers to include true affordable housing and encouraging the State Government to make housing reforms to including building public housing;

– Infrastructure needs to be planned first before rezoning.

– A Heritage Conservation Area covering Marrickville Town Centre - Marrickville, Illawarra and Petersham Roads

There were many questions and comments from the audience. Three main areas of concern were 1. poor process and lack of transparency behind the Urban Design Study; 2. genuine affordability through public and social housing (as opposed to the developer argument about increasing supply); and the political machinations (rather than evidence-based decisions) behind housing targets set by the State Government. Other questions and concerns included:

  1. The underwhelming heritage report (including a statement from Scott Macarthur, President of the Marrickville Heritage Society); 
  2. Desire for the community consultation to be started afresh with an emphasis on a community co-designed LEP rather than the current top down model;
  3. Questions about the infrastructure required to support additional housing;
  4. Concerns that out of 25 suburbs within the LGA only 3 areas were targeted for significant uplift;
  5. Concerns that the proposal is developer driven with no resident input;
  6. Concerns about the quality of new builds, as well as the desire to compel developers to build more sustainable housing; and
  7. Concerns that mass rezoning in residential streets will provide pressure to sell and pit neighbour against neighbour.

State Government housing targets

When Council was handed back planning control in the wash-up after the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal strategy, the NSW Government established housing targets that local councils were expected to meet, by setting aside areas for higher-density development within new Local Environment Plans (LEPs). As Sydney grows more housing is needed. Relying on greenfields sites is unsustainable. Yet the sticking points are where new housing should be built, which suburbs ought to bear the burden of disruption and extra demands on infrastructure, and how much the resulting development will change the character and quality of affected areas. Different LGAs were given wildly varying targets: from 300 new dwellings in Mosman to over 20,000 in Parramatta. Inner West was given a target of 5000. As well as anger over the blatant inequality of how different parts of Sydney have fared under these targets, a point of fury for Save Marrickville is that certain types of housing do not count towards housing targets, specifically boarding houses, serviced apartments and co-living (at this point we do not know whether the new type of housing called Build-to-Rent counts towards targets). This is unfair and we encourage lobbying the state government to change this loophole so that developments such as the recently approved 8 storey boarding house at 2-18 Station St contribute to the State imposed targets. 

Affordable housing

Many residents were rightly concerned about affordable housing. Save Marrickville is deeply concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Sydney, the displacement of more-affordable older style housing (e.g. flats above shops) for new developments that are rented at a higher rate, the difficulty for younger people to enter the housing market and the inability of people to age in place due to the lack of suitable housing. We have a position of affordable housing you can read here

The issue of supply was brought up at the meeting and has been a hot topic in the media recently. Housing experts do not agree with the simplified idea that increasing supply of housing through high-density apartment developments will result in greater affordability. This argument is frequently made by developer lobby groups, as a rationale to convince governments and the public to accept large-scale development. However, the evidence is clear: housing affordability will not be solved by simply building more apartments. In fact, during Sydney’s apartment boom from 2012-2017, new approvals were at record highs, and yet prices also skyrocketed. Housing economists and academic planners have consistently generated evidence that developers will only build new housing when markets are rising, because such circumstances guarantee profits and returns on investment. To gain more affordable housing, Sydney needs house prices to go down. Developers will not build more and more housing if prices are going down. They will only do so when they go up. So if housing affordability is the goal, different solutions are needed than simply rezoning to allow more developer-led apartment building. The housing market needs a range of reforms and it will rely upon the political will of both the State and Federal governments. Our ideas gleaned from housing experts (see a list of further reading at the end of this post) include: 

  1. building new public housing
  2. cessation of selling off existing public housing and protection of existing older style boarding houses
  3. investigation of an empty house/unit tax
  4. ending negative gearing where rental losses can be tax deducted (federal government issue)
  5. Improving tenancy laws to given renters better protection and more secure tenancy

Response from Councillors

All councillors were respectful of the community and gave their thoughts only after the Save Marrickville presentation and community discussion, at our invitation. Councillors Mat Howard and Justine Langford from the Marrickville/Midjuburi ward reiterated that they had not seen the studies until they were released and felt that it was the wrong way to introduce it to the community. Mayor Darcy Bryne addressed the meeting and mentioned that the goal should be thoughtful, sensitive and sustainable development and is keen for community collaboration. He proposed asking the State government to change the LEP engagement process for the LGA so that it is viewed as a whole.

Both the Marrickville/Midjuburi Councillors, Justine and Mat, as well as other Councillors from the other wards made themselves available to the community to hear concerns and answer questions. 

Thanks to all for coming. Stay tuned for updates about what is happening next on our Facebook page, website and email newsletter.

Extra reading

  1. Housing affordability ideas from the housing experts
  2. Learn a little more about taxing empty homes
  3. This is an older article dating back to 2017 discussing Vancouver being the 3rd least affordable city to live in. It includes this on-point quote "High house prices are not a sign of city's success but a sign of failure to deliver the housing that its citizens need." No prizes for guessing where Sydney is ranked in the least affordable places to live.
  4. Understand the mechanics of the supply debate from housing academics and read about why housing supply shouldn't be the only policy tool 
  5. Bring back the Design and Place SEPP so that new developments may have some design excellence, be sustainable and not crack.