Renewal SA was keen to proceed with the plan to demolish 50 inner-city housing trust apartments and build a 170-apartment block, but the Minister’s office pulled the pin on the project, InDaily can reveal.
The revelation indicates a developing schism between the State Government and its key development agency, as insiders warn the organisation’s head Fred Hansen may not have long left in his post.
The disagreement appears to be over commercial viability, with Minister for Social Housing Tony Piccolo unhappy with the low number of social houses in the development – and Renewal SA concerned that incorporating more social houses would make the apartment block unviable.
Two weeks ago Renewal SA announced that plans for a redevelopment of the Pope Court social housing estate would be scrapped. The redevelopment had been controversial after being vocally opposed by existing tenants.
Hansen told InDaily he believed the redevelopment had been viable, but it had been canned by Piccolo.
“Those are really questions that you have to ask the ministers that are involved, in particular Minister Piccolo,” Hansen said. “But we felt that it had the opportunity to be able to move forward, but Government I think felt that ‘hold it, we are not able to achieve as much as we’d like’.
“But in terms of exactly what that meant, that’s I think a question you probably need to talk to Mr Piccolo about.”
Hansen confirmed the developer was unable to provide enough social housing spaces for the Minister’s liking.
“I think that’s exactly what they concluded. that it was not possible to be able to achieve as many social housing units as they would have hoped for at that site.”
The 170-apartment block would have contained about 70 “affordable” properties which would have been split between price-subsidised housing sold on the market and community housing given to tenants in need, Hansen said.
However, the total number of community houses would likely have been lower than the number to be demolished for the building’s construction, he admitted. Renewal SA had budgeted to break even on the project.
“Housing SA in all the projects they have done over time have always found that breaking down that concentration is very important.
“They generally have been moving in their projects to be able to achieve somewhere between 25 per cent and sometimes down to 15 per cent replacement on a one-for-one basis against social housing.
“So when they go in and have done a project … they’ve achieved fewer social housing outcomes than what existed there before. And our goal would have been to do the same thing, though over time to be able to find other places where social housing would be able to be replaced so that the overall numbers were able to be increased.”
In February Renewal SA called for expressions of interest from developers keen to redevelop three inner-city Housing Trust sites – known as Manitoba, Playford and Pope Court.
That sparked outcry from one of the sites’ existing tenants, including David Scougall who led a vocal campaign against the redevelopment.
When InDaily spoke to him last week he was sipping a beer in celebration.
“I’m feeling great. over the moon – clichés are coming to mind,” he said.
“I’d just got hardened up and they gave in. I just got equipped to go to war and they capitulated.
“I moved in here for the rest of my life. So I was pretty miffed at being told that that wasn’t going to happen.”
Piccolo said in a statement that “the State Government decided not to proceed with the redevelopment of the Box Factory Estate because the expressions of interest we received did not meet our financial and social objectives”.
“However, the Government remains committed to working with the community housing sector and other organisations to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city.”
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