Millions unspent as Parkside public housing block sits empty

Twenty-one State Government-owned public housing units in one of Adelaide’s most desirable city-fringe suburbs have remained empty and dilapidated for three years, despite $4 million being set aside for renovations in 2018.

Jan 15, 2020, updated Jan 15, 2020
A 21-unit public housing block in Parkside has been empty since 2017. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

A 21-unit public housing block in Parkside has been empty since 2017. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The SA Housing Authority confirmed to InDaily that the apartment block on George Street in Parkside had been made progressively vacant since 2017, with plans to renovate the 21 single and two-bedroom units still under consideration.

The former State Government committed $4 million to renovate the block and a neighbouring 45-unit block on the same site – known as “Rosslyn Court” – in February 2018.

At the time, the then Public Housing Minister Stephen Mullighan said it was important for social housing to be located in all parts of Adelaide “including our eastern suburbs and especially in Parkside, where land is both scarce and expensive”.

“These properties are close to the CBD and have good access to public transport and a range of other services and facilities including schools and community facilities,” he said.

A SA Housing Authority spokesperson told InDaily in a statement yesterday that it had spent $600,000 of the $4 million budget fixing “non-structural” problems to the 45-unit block, including minor internal works and removing a “small amount” of asbestos.

InDaily asked the spokesperson what had happened to the remaining $3.4 million set aside in the budget and why the 21-unit apartment block had not yet undergone renovations, but the spokesperson was unable to clarify.

InDaily also asked Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink if the Government was planning to sell all, or a portion of, 40 George Street Parkside.

The question was referred to the SA Housing Authority, which was unable to provide a response.

The former State Government committed $4 million to redevelop Rosslyn Court in 2018. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Two other 45-unit apartment blocks also located at Rosslyn Court were refurbished in 2011 in a separate upgrade funded by the former Federal Government.

The SA Housing Authority, which has owned the property since 1965 when the apartment blocks were first built, said from the three 45-unit blocks that are currently tenanted, four units remain vacant.

It said the 21-block was empty “due to an ongoing renewal program targeted at this type of accommodation”.

“The authority is currently considering options for the future of Block 1 (the 21-unit bloc),” the authority’s spokesperson said.

Photos taken by InDaily of the 21-unit block show broken blinds and windows, and rubbish strewn out the front of the building.

Rubbish strewn outside the empty public housing block. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

It comes amid concerns the state’s public housing waiting list is growing, with South Australia’s peak housing advocacy group estimating over 20,000 people on low incomes are currently waiting to be housed.

Shelter SA executive director Alice Clark said it “seemed a waste for properties to be sitting there going to disrepair and becoming untenantable”.

“On one hand, the Housing Authority is clearly the largest land-holder in the state… so you would expect there to be some vacancies at any given time,” she said.

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“But if it (the apartment block) has been slowly emptied over time with a view to redevelop our question would be what are the plans for this site?

“There are so many desperate families out there needing housing so why can’t we use it?”

Clark said it would be “more detrimental” and costly to the State Government to have people experiencing homelessness than to house them in public housing, adding that renovating the 21-unit block would make a “really big difference” to reducing strain on the state’s welfare system.

“The need for this public housing has never been so pressing,” she said.

“We keep seeing this net loss of housing, so whatever plans the Government has for this site I would say get on with it.”

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

According to real estate website, Parkside’s median property prices over the last year range from $800,000 for houses and $400,000 for units.

The average rental price for a two-bedroom unit in Parkside is $420 per week.

Opposition human services spokesperson Nat Cook said it was “disappointing” to see the State Government not progress with the Rosslyn Court redevelopment.

“There is a housing crisis in the state and the Liberal Government is just looking to make money, not house those in our community in need,” she said.

“There are over 6000 people sleeping in unstable accommodation and there are beds sitting here empty and money being squandered from housing budgets.”

The SA Housing Authority said it regularly undertakes routine inspections of all its properties, including the units at George Street, as part of an asset management strategy.

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