Sirius Concern: One Of Sydney's Most Iconic Buildings Could Become Opal Tower 2.0

Recent media attention has focused on the Opal Tower, but an older residential building will soon make headlines.

The NSW Government is set to announce the sale of the iconic Sirius building without mandating any social or affordable housing targets on the buyer.

Sirius is a robust, well-built structure completed in 1980 to compensate for the loss of low-cost homes, long before privatisation was fashionable and building certification was deregulated.

It has provided vital housing for elderly and vulnerable people who need to be close to jobs, support and services.

What irony that the Opal Tower developer is on the shortlist to redevelop Sirius!

The controversial Sirius public housing site at The Rocks. Image: AAP

Sirius has withstood successive governments’ neglect to remain fit-for-purpose for social housing tenants’ needs. It has lift and level access, onsite parking for carers and communal space for community-building activities. Most units are one and two bedroom, which are in the highest social housing tenancy demand. The building is also close to services.

New South Wales has the largest proportion of homeless people and the fastest increase in homelessness in the country. Our social housing waiting list is over 60,000 tenancies long.

The waiting list has remained unchanged in four years with the number of new homes added to social housing stock not even making a dent.

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When Gladys Berejiklian became Premier, she said her first priority was to address affordable housing, but she has sold off vast amounts of inner-city social housing.

The government has failed to introduce key policy objectives to address the housing crisis including vital minimum mandatory social and affordable housing targets in major developments.

This compares poorly to our international and national counterparts.

San Francisco's affordable housing target is 12 to 33 percent, Montreal's is 30 percent, Vancouver's 20 percent, Washington DC's 8 to 10 percent and South Australia's 15 percent.

Sydney's target is a mere 1 to 4 percent depending on the project! That won’t even scratch the surface given the crisis we are in.

Opal Tower. Image: AAP

Less than one percent of Sydney’s entire rental housing is affordable, renters have been priced out of the market, including key workers like nurses, teachers and police who are critical to our city.

The government’s chief housing affordability policy is to ensure developer projects are fast-tracked, which is concerning amid the Opal Tower fiasco.

Deregulation of government oversight and the claw back of safeguards in development is at the heart of the Opal Tower failure.

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What a disgrace if the Sirius building, constructed at a time when we could trust that buildings were built to a standard, gets replaced with another defects ridden apartment block bought up by property speculators.

While the government has said Sirius sale proceeds will go to new social housing, it hasn’t revealed how exactly many homes will be built or where.

Existing plans indicate we will probably only get about the same number of homes in places far from jobs, transport and services.

Selling off fit-for-purpose social housing is particularly disturbing when the government says it is cashed-up enough to waste millions of dollars on rebuilding Sydney Football Stadium, which is functioning well, much-loved, award-winning and hardly ever full.

Handing over the Sirius building to a property developer to make millions without mandated targets for social and affordable housing fails the fairness test and exposes the government policy black hole when it comes to making Sydney affordable and equitable for current and future generations.