General Information

Background Information on Cowper Street

The Cowper Street Redevelopment Project


Prepared in 2010

Recent press reports suggest that the NSW Government ‘needs’ to sell off homes in Millers Point and Glebe to obtain the money necessary to fund the redevelopment of a Housing estate in Glebe. This is an area of 1.6 hectares bounded by Wentworth, Cowper and Bay Streets. Existing development comprises 134 low rise flats constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.


The NSW State government proposes to demolish these flats. In their place it is proposed to construct 500 units. 250 of these will be privately owned, 153 are to be public housing and the balance is to be affordable housing. The units will be built in towers up the 10 storeys high. The public housing units will be smaller than the existing units, and will offer less amenity as they will be crowded onto a small area at the southern end of the site with little access to sunlight or views.


There is also to be commercial development on the site, and Elger Street will be extended to Bay Street increasing traffic flows through the back streets of Glebe.


As yet the NSW Government has not released the actual plans and say they have not decided just how many units they can cram onto the site. They are waiting to get the tenants out before they commit themselves. Concept plans provided to Council show tenants will be expected to make do with a combined living dining and kitchen space and fully enclosed bathrooms which will need mechanical ventilation. The local Member Ms Firth advises that the units will not be suitable for children.


According to public announcements the NSW Government has raised $20 million for this project from the sale of homes and the Federal Government has chipped in $9 million for site development including the removal of fill containing asbestos which the Department of Housing advises should not be disturbed.


This is a redevelopment no one wants or needs. Any spare money the State Government has should be spent on maintaining the existing housing stock in Glebe and Millers Point.


Residents of Glebe including public tenants, private owners and private tenants have had enough of the NSW Government’s creeping privatisation of public housing. They are fighting back. A group of residents have combined in a group called ‘Hands off Glebe’.


Signs and stickers have appeared all over Glebe proclaiming ‘Hands off Glebe’ and ‘Hands off My Home’ in a direct message to the NSW Government and private developers that there will be resistance to their money making plans at the expense of this community.


Glebe is an old largely intact suburb of Sydney. Its heritage buildings and townscape are worth preserving . The Whitlam government certainly thought so when it purchased the Glebe Estate in 1974. When the Federal Government handed over the Glebe Estate to the NSW Government in the mid 1980s it was on the promise that the historic townscape of Glebe would be preserved and its low income community protected.


These present proposals serve neither of those ends. High rise development will destroy the character of Glebe. The disruption to the community is unnecessary and pointless. The homes which the NSW Government proposes to demolish are well built with established gardens and mature trees. Tenants who have lived here since the homes were new are being forced to leave.


This project comes in the face of NSW Government’s lack of care for public housing and the gradual running down of public housing stock. The NSW Government has been lax in maintenance of their buildings and have been quietly selling off houses and keeping houses empty while the clamour for more housing and affordable housing is continuing. The churning of housing – that is, selling houses to build more houses – only serves the interests of the developers.


The ‘Hands Off’ group can provide to Media the contact details of individual tenants who are affected by the this proposal and who are prepared to talk about their history and their views of the proposed redevelopment. The Hands Off group also can provide:

  • A copy of a letter from the Federal Government to tenants of the Glebe Estate in 1984 promising that they would be looked after and the historic townscape of Glebe would be preserved.
  • A copy of a letter to tenants of the Cowper Street flats sent in April of this year advising of the presence of asbestos.
  • The concept plans submitted to Council by the Department of Housing