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No room in new Block project for Aboriginal residents

History: Terraces in the Block. Photo: Edwina PicklesBlock politics in Redfern
Nanjing Night Net

Affordable housing for Aboriginal people at the Block in Redfern appears all but dead as the indigenous owner powers ahead with plans for a massive residential and retail precinct.

The Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC), which is behind the long-awaited development, said it was not commercially viable to pursue affordable housing on the land handed back to Aboriginal people in the 1970s.

The Housing Company’s chief executive, Mick Mundine, said he was waiting for government to provide the funding for residences accessible to Aboriginal people.

”That’s on the back burner at the moment,” he said. ”Our first priority is the commercial build.”

But the state government, which has its own Aboriginal housing program, is unlikely to give any money.

”The Department of Family and Community Services is currently not involved in the Block in Redfern, nor is it currently dealing with any funding applications for the project,” a spokesman for the department said.

And federal government rental assistance money committed by the previous Labor administration was rejected by the AHC when it discovered, under the terms of the funding, administrators could be appointed if the organisation ran into trouble.

Nonetheless, he said they were relying on government for any affordable, Aboriginal housing at the site, bordered by Eveleigh, Vine, Louis and Caroline streets, near Redfern railway station.

”We’re still waiting for the government,” he said.

But the commercial side of the proposed development – involving student accommodation and retail space – is on track with the projects’ backers, DeiCorp, Mr Mundine said.

”We should be starting to build this year.”

The AHC, a not-for-profit organisation formed by Aboriginal squatters in the 1970s, started with a collection of terraces purchased with a grant from the Whitlam government.

But the Block gained a notorious reputation for drugs and crime in the ’80s and ’90s and the last tenant to be pushed out left in 2011 before the remaining homes were demolished.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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