Knocking down the 700 homes in the Bellambi public housing estate and redeveloping the land into 2000 affordable dwellings has been knocked back by shadow planning minister Paul Scully.
However, the member for Wollongong left the door open to urban regeneration of public housing stock in the Illawarra.
Speaking at lunch for the property industry hosted by the Urban Development Institute of Australia in Wollongong today, Mr Scully said the region's public housing stock was dilapidated and in need of change.
"They're all owned by the NSW Government, and I don't say that as a partisan comment, but they are the ones that need the biggest refresh," Mr Scully said.
With a state election just under three weeks away and Mr Scully angling for the planning portfolio if Labor win government, top of mind for developers is addressing the housing shortage in the Illawarra, where rents have risen fastest of any region in NSW.
At the lunch, UDIA Illawarra-Shoalhaven launched its "manifesto" for tackling the housing crisis in the region, identifying 31,400 homes that can be "unlocked" with $137 million in enabling infrastructure such as sewage lines and water pumps.
UDIA Illawarra chapter chair Simon Kersten asked Mr Scully whether a NSW Labor government would redevelop the land owned by the Land and Housing Corporation in Bellambi into 2000 affordable units, which currently amounts to about 700 dwellings.
"Bellambi, 200 hectares of land, if you put Wollongong city densities around Bellambi you might house 7000 people in a mini city," he said. "Is there going to be the vision to do that?"
Mr Scully said there were a range of reasons why Bellambi could not be redeveloped at the same scale as Wollongong, including train and road access, the impact on health and social services and the need for open space, however said urban regeneration was inevitable in the Illawarra.
"The urban regeneration project is going to have to take place in the Illawarra, just as it has taken place in other areas, but in order to do that, you have to bring people along with it," he said.
While the millions earned in sales of public housing in the Illawarra has created new homes in the region, the region has not added new social housing and the redevelopment of large estates such as Bellambi has not occurred. In Sydney, the Waterloo public housing estate is being redeveloped along with a new metro station.
The plan involves knocking down social housing towers and replacing them with a mix of public and private housing, with 35 per cent of the development allocated to social and affordable housing, including an additional 98 social units than the previous total.
The plan has not been without controversy, however, with 2700 objections received during the public exhibition period in April 2022 and the state government at loggerheads with the City of Sydney over the split between social and market-price housing.
With the average age of social housing in Wollongong at 50 years old, Mr Scully acknowledged that public housing renewal was bound to occur.
"They're old, they need change and they are on big blocks, and we can do a lot with them."
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