Protestors have rallied outside of Sydney’s iconic Sirius building as it officially went on sale today.
Social Housing Minister Pru Goward was confronted by angry campaigners trying to save the building during a media conference today.
The brutalist building next to the Harbour Bridge - which has been used for social housing for more than 30 years - is being sold to developers who are expected to replace it with hundreds of private apartments, despite fierce opposition from community groups desperate to save it.
The building is on the World Monuments Fund watch list, was unanimously recommended for heritage listing by the New South Wales (NSW) Heritage Council and the National Trust, and was even listed on the State Government’s Heritage Register in 1995.
Despite this, calls to have the distinctive example of brutalist architecture placed on the heritage register have been rejected, most recently by Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton in October.
Upton, who has no background in architecture or heritage, decided that “while the Sirius Building is distinctive, in my view, it is not a landmark worthy of State heritage protection”.
The social housing complex, designed by Tao Gofers in 1979, has been listed for sale, with the NSW government seeking expressions of interest for the 3,640-sq-m site.
It is understood the government wants at least A$100mn for the property.
Goward noted there were 60,000 people on NSW's social housing waiting list, with proceeds from Sirius being used to build more social housing around the state.
"There's no doubt it's a part of a memory of Sydney from the last century that people probably do have some affection for," she said.
"But in the end what matters to me is that we are able to build a lot more social housing. This will certainly boost the number of properties that we can build.
“It’s up for sale today – we’re looking for expressions of interest.
“This was a very clear decision we made in 2014 that we need to sell off properties in Millers Point because we need to pay for more public housing.”
Critics of the sale predict it will end up being luxury apartments or a boutique hotel.
Goward said the "legacy" of the Sirius sale would be "hundreds of brand new homes built for our most vulnerable".
"Improving their lives was always at the heart of this decision," she said.
"I have met some of the tenants who have already moved into new homes across NSW and heard wonderful feedback."
The Sirius building sell-off is part of the state government's plan to sell 300 state-owned properties in prime locations across Sydney to raise up to A$500mn.
As well as announcing the sale, the government has simultaneously released the draft State Significant Precinct State Environment Planning Policy (SSP SEPP) for the site, which is on exhibition for public comment until 16 February 2018.