Last night 30 Argyle Place was sold for a sum approaching $2 million dollars. This is more than the price quoted by the agents and the government.
The 1840s terrace at 30 Argyle Place is relatively small and in appalling condition. It is similar in age and condition to the terrace at 52 Argyle Place, which is the terrace shown to media on 19 March 2014 to demonstrate that many of Housing NSW’s heritage properties in Millers Point would require almost one million dollars each to repair, whereas the sale of each one would provide funds for building three new properties for public housing tenants. The minister’s media release of 19 March became the story that was told by most television, radio and print media.
Tonight’s auction is likely to have been the last Millers Point property sold this year. There will have been six house sales since the 19 March announcement. All the houses sold so far were already empty on 19 March, and in fact three of them had been offered previously through auction marketing programs. Numbers 29 and 23 Lower Fort Street were withdrawn on the day they were to be auctioned a couple of years ago, and 30 Argyle Place did not proceed after its previous auction. So the government offered for sale only three new properties in Millers Point since the 19 March announcement.
It appears the government is very intent on emptying the properties it owns in Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks, but much less interested in selling them.
People who work in Housing NSW talk about the two roads that traverse Millers Point. One is Argyle Place. The other is the Termite Highway. It is State Government neglect that has seen the densest concentration of heritage properties in Australia turned into an almost derelict street in which a huge amount of the heritage value of properties has been lost. The same is true of Kent Street and Lower Fort Street. The government should be made to answer for this neglect rather than being congratulated for selling off more public housing.
There are also large sections of purpose-built worker and public housing throughout Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks – all the properties on High Street, most of those in Windmill Street, the flats in Lower Fort Street, the Sirius Apartments, most of the Dalgety Road terraces. This housing stock was built throughout the 20th century and most of it requires minimal repair or no repair to remain suitable for its current occupants. However, it is being cleared out at a remarkable rate. Relocation Officers are pressing ever harder to move people on, even when they can point to five, six and seven generations that their families and neighbouring families have lived together in Millers Point. Most of these properties provide modest accommodation, no harbour views, and no potential for multi-million dollar returns to the government. The government has remained silent on its reasons for emptying these properties. The economics of selling them and destroying a community do not stack up.
It appears the government wants few witnesses to its actions in Millers Point. They are on track to sell only a tiny proportion of the properties they have emptied, but they are on the brink of crushing a community that is strong, diverse and supportive.
It has been reported that the government has for years left vacant four-bedroom units in Sirius while paying up to $5000 a month to rent equivalent properties near the city. The former premier made a public statement to the House that he believed all public tenants in Millers Point must be moved. The government when advised their actions would likely lead to the deaths of some residents, instead of changing their policies, appeared to change the report that showed them this result of their actions. It is time for the government to face the people whose community in Millers Point it is destroying and to begin to provide answers.