Social housing has been built in New South Wales for more than 100 years. Over that time, the design and construction of social housing has been shaped by contemporary thought, tastes and technology, sometimes in a pioneering or exemplary way. Also over that time, social housing providers have acquired housing stock built by others, including buildings built in the nineteenth century.
For all these reasons, heritage is an important issue for social housing now. The NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC), the State Government agency that owns the large majority of social housing properties in New South Wales, maintains a Heritage and Conservation Register that comprises 3,380 entries — almost all of them relating to buildings used for social housing.
Furthermore, the importance of heritage is heightened by the increasing prominence of questions of ‘asset management’ in social housing.
One aspect of asset management is repairs and maintenance – work to which more resources have been directed in recent years, but which remains a problem for many tenants. Another aspect is the alteration or modification of buildings, particularly to better accommodate people with disability.
In recent years, social housing asset management has also involved programs for the ‘renewal’ of buildings and estates, ranging from the renovation of social housing dwellings and grounds to their demolition and replacement with new buildings, some or all of which may be privately owned. Finally, and increasingly, social housing asset management involves consideration as to the suitability of properties for the purposes of social housing, with a view to the disposal of unsuitable properties.
As these questions – of repairs and maintenance, modifications, renewal and disposals – become more prominent, so too does the question of heritage protection in social housing.
The purpose of this Brief is to unpack ‘heritage’ and its implications for social housing asset management and, by extension, for social housing tenants.