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    Three nights of discussion in defence of fairer housing

    Kirsty Sier

    Three nights of discussion have been planned in Sydney to discuss a radical future for fair housing.

    A joint effort by the Waterloo Public Action Group, Inner Sydney Voice and the University of Sydney, the discussions will follow from the book In Defense of Housing by urban planner Peter Marcuse and sociologist David Madden. Since its release last year, the book has been treated as a ‘definitive statement’ on the housing crisis, drawing international attention for the radical solutions it proposed.

    The three-night event will be held between the Future Planning Centre and The Factory in Sydney, and will focus on unpacking the arguments that are made in the book. Although much of the published research focuses on housing crises in the United Kingdom and the United States, the authors have drawn strong parallels to Australian experiences, and particularly to the inner-Sydney suburbs of Waterloo and Redfern. These discussions about public housing seem especially timely considering recent developments in the fight to save the Sirius building.

    “We have organised this series of discussions […] to try to better understand the way the housing system works against us here, and how we can fight to change it, but also to build on the arguments made in the book using the knowledge and experience that lives in this [Sydney] community,” reads a joint statement released by Madden and Marcuse.

    On the night of 31 August, David Madden himself will be joining the discussion.

    A brief summary of the book below:

    “Madden and Marcuse explore the political and economic forces that have created and maintain housing crises. A central point is that ‘the residential is political – which is to say that the shape of the housing system is always the outcome of struggles between different groups in different classes’. Some radical and progressive experiments have come out of these struggles (elements of which persist in some places today) but by and large the outcome is a system that treats housing as a commodity rather than as shelter.

    “Madden and Marcuse outline several potential directions for a radical right to housing. Foremost, the housing system should be de-commodified and de-financialised. More new public housing should be built, and existing public housing defended and improved, with funding from general government revenues. Inhabitants should be privileged over landlords and investors. Investment in alternative housing models should be expanded, encouraging wide experimentation in the construction and management of housing. Housing management should be democratised: resident associations, tenant unions, community organisations, and households need to have actual democratic decision-making authority. Housing struggles should be broadened to intersect with other struggles. Housing policy should also be democratised so as to incorporate more public scrutiny and input. Finally, housing movements need to be globalised to match the scale of issues they seek to address.”

    ‘In Defense of Housing: A Community Discussion’ will be held on 17 and 24 August at the Future Planning Centre, and on 31 August at The Factory Theatre. More information here.

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