Waterloo Green is part of a large concentration of public housing in the wider Redfern area. The six Housing NSW tower blocks on which this initiative is specifically focused are surrounded by low rise housing also in state government ownership. Waterloo Green has seen many of the problems common to high density public housing elsewhere in Australia and in other countries. As well as having experienced historic under-investment in maintaining the physical fabric, the estate has been affected by the growing residualisation of public housing and the growing concentration of poverty and worklessness in the sector. Associated with these problems, the estate has been subject to abnormal levels of crime, vandalism and insecurity impacting on the lettability of vacant flats and the ‘churn’ of the resident population.
This study is an evaluation of the Housing NSW Waterloo Green Neighbourhood Project (WGNP), an estate management initiative which seeks to improve the quality of life of estate residents mainly via security improvements and re-instituting a local management presence. As such, it involves initial investment in security and other environmental works, with an ongoing commitment to relatively intensive housing management and grounds management services to be provided by external contractors. More unusually, the project requires that contractors employ local social housing residents as trainees to gain experience as ‘front desk’ staff, as security operatives and as environmental maintenance workers.
Although primarily designed to address the problems of Waterloo Green, the WGNP model is seen by Housing NSW as having a potentially significant role in piloting a model of estate management reform which could be applicable to public housing estates elsewhere in the state. However, the high rise built form of Waterloo Green makes it highly unusual within the broader Housing NSW portfolio and this may limit the broader applicability of certain important aspects of the WGNP model such as the foyer security system. Components of the model such as the employability angle may be of potentially greater significance as regards scope for replication.
The City Futures WGNP evaluation will involve:
1. a series of in-depth interviews with a wide range of Housing NSW staff and other stakeholders
2. focus group meetings with HNSW tenants
3. analysis of secondary data to probe the initiative’s impact on housing management performance and efficiency.