Interview by Nicole Gooch
For many, working to own your own home is an important part of life in Sydney, although it is increasingly unlikely for younger residents due to rising house prices. People work hard to meet expectations. The least they expect is that when it comes to the ownership of their home, they will be treated fairly.
In an earlier post, we discussed the impact of losing your home on older residents and the fears of those who would be left behind about what it would be like to live in the middle of a huge construction site for months, or even years. The picture emerging is far from what Premier Mike Baird called “doing everything we can in terms of compensation, looking after them, provide provision for a new home” or the low key distanced tone of the Westconnex GHD Social Impact study
But you don’t have to be old to be severely affected by the threat of losing your home for less than its value, especially when all the stress you’re experiencing leads you to call Westconnex’s so called free counselling service and they don’t ring back.
This is the story of Kim Sun whose home at 21 Young Street will be smashed for Westconnex.
For the past few months, Kim Sun has spent almost every weekend attending auctions and open home inspections in and around North Strathfield. He is desperate and stressed as house prices are way above what he can afford.
The thing is, Kim and his wife already own a lovely home in North Strathfield, which they have renovated bit by bit since buying it in 2006. They’ve added insulation, solar power and a water tank as they expected to stay in it a lot longer. Their six year old son rides his scooter with his dad to the local school and his grandmother lives a 5 minutes drive away in same suburb.
But in November 2013, Kim received a letter from the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA), informing him his house was to be acquired to make way for the motorway. It was the first he’d ever heard of the WestConnex. The family must now vacate by March next year, but Kim says WestConnex will only buy their house at nearly $200,000 less than market value.
“The price Roads and Maritime Services offer means we can only buy a home very substandard to the one we are living in. And time is running out. ” says Kim.
“It’s not right. It should be market value. That’s what they say they are offering, and it’s not. They are not doing the right thing by people. Considering the project is going to cost $15.4 billion, and they need our place, and they are stressing us out, why put on that extra pressure of offering below market value.”
“It’s a difficult situation too for me because my wife doesn’t work, she looks after my son and the house. I am the only one working, so it makes it a bit difficult having to borrow extra money to find a place, so we can stay within the area, with what they are offering.”
Kim says it’s the same for everybody on their street: “We all seem to have a problem with getting the market value.”
He knows others who have had to move to the Central Coast after their house was acquired, but that’s not an option for the Sun family. “I don’t want to change schools for my son, he likes it there, and mum is close by. I don’t want to go somewhere else,” says Kim, who catches a train from North Strathfield station or Strathfield station into work at Town Hall. “We were hoping to stay here a long time, which is why we set the house up comfortably.”
The past two years of negotiations and uncertainty have taken their toll. Kim is struggling with stress and is on antidepressants. It’s a situation made worse by a lack of communication from the WDA. “I’ve tried to call WestConnex myself, but they don’t return calls,” says Kim, who has kept a log of these calls, having been assigned a ‘job number’ for each. He feels “extremely disappointed and stressed” with the way WDA has treated his family.
In July this year Kim called WestConnex wanting to know by when exactly the house had to be emptied, and also asked about accessing the free counselling service on offer. His call was never returned.
A young family, work and an ailing mother already make for a busy life, and Kim says the last thing he needed on top of it all is to be “kicked out of my home in such a short space of time now”.
Asked by the People’s M4EIS what he thought of Premier Baird’s comment about needing to make provision for the majority, Kim says: “ If I was losing my house to public transport I’d probably feel less hurt by it. I don’t think the WestConnex is going to solve our problems. For me public transport would be the way to go first. And I thought ‘market value’ was market value. I don’t see why we have to negotiate so hard with them.”
Final negotiations between Kim and RMS took place two days ago. Kim refused to accept the RMS offer of $1.445 million, the same offer as the one made in August. “That offer is way below my valuer’s market value of $1.65mil,” says Kim. “We will be going to the Valuer General.”
(Ed:If you want to know more about Social Impacts of Westconnex, this submission from a resident in Haberfield is very helpful)