Waterloo Urban Renewal Project

The suburb of Waterloo is to undergo one of the largest urban renewal projects in Australia. The exact boundary of the renewal project has not been defined to date however we know that the entire development area is approximately 40 hectares with 13 hectares owned by the Government. The project seeks to create a mixed-housing precinct which will accommodate an additional 30,000 residents and 10,000 dwellings with 1/3 being social and affordable housing while the remainder being private (SMH, Waterloo chosen over Sydney University as site for new metro train station, dated 17 December 2015). The photomontage below illustrates the potential outcome of the redevelopment of Waterloo.


waterloo one
Figure 1: Photomontage of Waterloo Urban Project

Source: Sydney Morning Herald


The Urban Renewal Project is to be undertaken in 2 stages over a 20 year period with construction due to start in 2018. Once the planning processes are completed the redevelopment area will be spilt up into 20 super blocks which will be put to tender for the private sector to redevelop the individual blocks.


The proposal would involve the demolition of the existing Waterloo Housing Estate which dates back to 1950s and incorporates 2 x 30-storey towers (refer to the figure below), 4 x 16-storey towers and 3 storey walk ups which totals up to 2,00 dwellings. The existing accommodation is outdated which was built in the 1950s and the tower elements are considered to be an eyesore from longer distant views. The Housing Estate is an entrenched hotspot for drugs, crime and poverty over the past 50 to 60 years while the towers are dubbed the ‘suicide towers’.

waterloo two
Figure 2: The ‘suicide towers’

Source: The Australian


The redevelopment of Waterloo will provide more public housing then currently exists and the existing housing tenants will have the choice to return to the public housing once it is constructed. One of the main challenges facing the Urban Renewal Project will be the temporary relocation of the existing 4,000 public housing tenants during the redevelopment. A large portion of the tenants have been at the Housing Estate long term and are emotionally attached to the locality. The tenants may have fears of being driven out of the area by gentrification. However, the public housing tenants will have the opportunity to return while the redevelopment of the area will create a safer environment which should be an incentive for these tenants to return.


The project will also include a new Waterloo train station for the area. The NSW Government were deciding between a new train station at either Waterloo or Sydney University. However, Waterloo was favoured as the new station offered a chance to assist in revitalising the locality. Mike Barid said:


“The metro station creates the opportunity to transform Waterloo and make it a better place to live for future and existing residents, many of whom are amongst the most vulnerable people in NSW,”


Although Waterloo is only 4km from the city it is relatively isolated with regard to public transport services. The new train station will connect to Chatswood in the north and Sydenham in the south (refer to the figure below). The station will bring jobs to the area while it will provide direct links to key employment areas including Barangaroo and Marin Place. The Environmental Impact Statement for the train station is to be prepared by mid 2016 with construction to commence in 2018.

waterloo three


Figure 3: Waterloo new train line 

Source: Sydney Morning Herald


A ‘value capture’ mechanism will be introduced which incorporates a contribution tax of $20,000 for each new apartment to help fund the train station and affordable and social housing. This approach is similar to the Parramatta Light Rail. The contribution tax will be forwarded onto the private investor which will see housing prices and rents significantly increase. With the expensive housing prices and rents there is a risk that families will not be able to afford the area and be pushed to the outer suburbs.


Overall there will be a number of key benefits associated with the Urban Renewal Project. The project will revitalise the Waterloo locality which comprises of redundant public housing and is a hot spot for crime, drugs and poverty. The existing housing tenants will have the opportunity of remaining in Waterloo after the redevelopment. The provision of a new train station will significantly improve the accessibility to and from Waterloo and the area is set to become one of the most ‘walkable areas in Sydney’. The Urban Renewal Project will become an example of ‘smart city planning’ and will set a precedent for future redevelopment of other areas.


In conclusion, the Urban Renewal Project will provide a cleaner, safer and better connected locality. While there will be a challenge in relocating the current public housing tenants this will be temporary and the redevelopment will allow for the current outdated stock to be replaced. The proposed value capture levy to fund the train station and affordable and social housing will create a hurdle however the Government must carefully assess how much of the burden the private sector can carry to ensure Urban Renewal Project is economically viable.







Share this: