John Preston says forget the Parisian solution, the rest of the world caught on to the benefits of urban renewal a long time ago…and now it’s Sydney turn.


I have now been following the views of Edwina Lloyd for a month and think I am in a position to ignore anything she says about almost everything.

Last week on The Big Smoke she was an expert on housing. I would have thought that membership of the Labor Party had taught her that when you regulate buying and selling, the first thing that gets bought and sold is the regulator.

I have noticed with both Alex Greenwich and Edwina Lloyd there is always some halcyon time in Sydney housing that we should try and revisit.

It’s a good time that never was.

I am sorry Edwina, I have to tell you honestly, in my opinion you do not know what you are talking about.

In her cargo cult thinking, and it’s a proud Labor tradition, we just need to be more like Paris and everything will be OK. I think it’s really just a question of language and Edwina is a lady of words. With low growth and rising unemployment (10.4 percent), I am not sure if the Paris model is what we are looking for, but when it comes to ideas, Edwina just has to get them where she finds them.

Sydney is being “gentrified” and that is bad, says Edwina. Actually, it’s called Urban Renewal and it’s a good thing. New York discovered urban renewal in the 1980s after they tried the crackpot schemes that you are suggesting and tried taxing their property owners to death as they walked away from their properties, owing more in taxes than they were worth.

Britain had a shot at what you were suggesting as well and that was a social and demographic disaster, but at least it produced the Sex Pistols.

I like Johnny Rotten, but I don’t want him as a neighbour.

Usage patterns and demographic patterns shift. That is a fact of life that does not seem to be a tragedy anywhere else. I don’t see anyone cry when farms are turned into housing. Alexandria used to be full of foundries and heavy industry. I don’t hear anyone calling for their return.

Singapore was a shanty town, now it powers ahead. I have never heard anyone complaining about urban renewal there, just celebrating it.

Let’s face it Edwina, Labor loves a bit of protectionism, even when everyone else has abandoned it. You lost it in industry, and housing is the final frontier of featherbedding for your base. Dressing up clipping tickets for your people and calling it the “Parisian solution” whilst everyone else slogs it out in the housing market is no solution at all. Tell that to the guy who caught the train to the city from Parramatta this morning.

It might sound good, but it’s not going to get anyone housed. The solution to affordable housing is to build more houses. All kinds, all shapes, sizes, prices and budgets. Ham-fisted attempts at some vague kind of social engineering designed to revive the “Sydney Push” should not get the time of day. They have been tried all over the world and don’t work. There is no reason to think they would work here. If Edwina wants to point fingers, start with Alex Greenwich’s cheer squad at Town Hall who have taken 16 years to get Green Square to fruition and want to stop residential construction in South Sydney.

Singapore’s Cyber Hub took 4.

What does work?

Well start with reducing the enormous cost and delays with getting things built in this state, double that of Victoria. That would be a good start. Oh, and stop the accusations of social engineering by the State Government with its selling of Millers Point properties. Alex Greenwich runs this pearler and it’s utterly worn out now.

I am never one to lecture, Edwina, but you might want to spend more of your time talking to Paul Keating on housing, and less with your current colleagues who want to take you back to the future.

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