Inner West council chooses housing over heritage

A majority of Inner West Councillors have voted to oppose heritage listing of the former Church of Christ building in Illawarra Road Marrickville, ignoring the independent heritage report that recommended the listing, the 63% of respondents to the exhibition of the proposal to list, and support from the Marrickville Heritage Society. 

While it is just one block in one suburb, Marrickville Councillor Colin Hesse has raised concern that the mechanics and politics of the decision has wider significance in a city where housing affordability is a key challenge for all levels of government.According to the Heritage Society this will be the third former Church in Marrickville demolished in recent years.

Councillors opposing listing argued that because the site was proposed to be used for social housing (under the Boarding Housing provisions of NSW Planning legislation) that this was a greater good.

Greens Councillors have consistently sought pro-social housing policies from Council, and from time to time we’ve been successful, but not at the expense of our valuable and limited heritage.

The long running crisis in housing is a direct result of Federal and State Government policies, not local government. The absence of a capital gains tax over the last thirty-five years of so has seen housing become a commodity rather than a need, and similarly negative gearing has promoted housing speculation.

If the NSW Government wished to it could simply mandate that housing should not be left vacant from more than 6 months, and if it did so there would be an immediate fall in rents as the many tens of thousands of vacant homes in this city came onto the rental market. While overseeing a speculative housing market, State and Federal Governments have failed to provide social housing for the many millions among us who cannot afford to buy, and for the many who struggle to pay rent.

Councillors supporting heritage listing were ClrColin Hesse and fellow Greens Clrs Louise Steer and Marghanita Da Cruz, Labor Clr Lucille McKenna and Independent Clrs Pauline Lockie and John Stamolis. Clrs Iskandar (Labor) and Porteous (Greens) were absent.

Read the full story including comments from Greens Councillors Tom Kiat, Colin Hesse and Marghanita da Cruz in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

By Clr Colin Hesse