BEACONSFIELD residents are demanding the WA government reduce the extraordinarily high level of public housing in their neighbourhood.
Ninety-one residents of the troubled David Park area—dubbed the Beacy Bronx—have signed a petition seeking the sell-off.
A massive 85 per cent of the 250-home precinct is public housing, far above the 11 per cent the WA housing department aims for. Petitioners say they’ve put up with gangs, drug violence, break-ins and other anti-social behaviour for too long.
Many are afraid to speak publicly after a resident’s back fence was firebombed.
Local Labor MP Simone McGurk, who presented their petition to parliament this week, says frustrated locals are not calling for forced evictions, but change over time.
She says breaking up old-style “estates” has worked well in places like Coolbellup, Medina and Balcatta.
Ms McGurk says department staff told her they were ready to start implementing a sale policy but no longer had the resources to manage it.
But reducing public housing isn’t seen as a panacea by everyone. Karin MacArthur is a member of the South West Metropolitan Partnership Forum, a group tasked with improving the area. She says residents she speaks to pin the problems onto a tiny minority of troublemakers, not the concept of public housing, and that better management of tenancies is worth pursuing.
“I’d be very reluctant to suggest that the problems are due to social housing,” Dr MacArthur says. “There are a few households that have been identified as causing a lot of the issues. One individual said to me: I’ve been living here 30 years and there hasn’t been any problems. What they’ve said is now the tenants are not being required to maintain the same level of behaviour.”
Dr MacArthur says locals told her at a recent forum they believed the situation was getting better: “A lot of residents came up and said how much quieter things have gotten.”
She says there’s still much to be done but programs are helping: Buster the fun bus is back (with supervision this time), a parenting program is starting, and Fremantle council’s spending $100,000 to redevelop a local park. It’s bringing in kids play guru Griffin Longley to work out activities. “The next [action] is going to be setting up a local drug action network, and then strengthening the residents’ association.”
She says locals don’t lodge complaints about disruptive behaviour because they’re scared of repercussions, and a stronger residents’ association will encourage them to speak up.
by DAVID BELL