SMITH STREET residents have informally marked the start of the eighth year of the Stirling Towers lying empty.
Nearby resident Raymond Clarke told the Voice he was annoyed the derelict former public housing towers now hosted rats, bats, squatters, vandals, and interlopers who snuck in to look around.
Even the security measures intended to keep out troublemakers have proved frustrating: In 2021 “site sentry” surveillance stations were installed to deter squatters and explorers. They detect motion and have CCTV and speakers hooked up to an off-site security guard monitoring the feed, blaring alarms when interlopers are spotted.
“They just go off all the time,” Mr Clarke says.
The Voice heard from an ‘urban explorer’ who’d previously snuck into the building that site sentries aren’t much of a deterrent.
“The thing is, you can have the best cameras in the world, but what’s the response time?”
The explorer said from experience it takes between “15 minutes to 49 minutes” for security staff to respond – plenty of time to get in and out.
A series of plans have come in the years since 2014 when the Department of Communities first announced the building would be demolished and replaced.
An initial design was approved in 2016 and the state government sought a contractor to demolish the building later that year. It never went ahead, but an artistically painted fence went up around the site instead.
Another plan reared its head in 2018, with the DoC starting negotiations with a contractor to draw up plans for an “integrated community” building featuring a mix of social housing and market-priced units. The contractor pulled out.
“I’ve got a stack of brochures now,” Mr Clarke chuckles, with government pamphlets claiming “’this is imminent!’ There’s been a number of things imminent now for ages.
“Can’t they knock it down now and then decide what to do in 15 years?”
In August 2022 the state government announced it had shortlisted three possible partners for a ‘build-to-rent’ project on the site, where the government would keep ownership of the site but the builder would get a long-term deal to rent out the units.
State MP for Perth John Carey, also minister for housing, told us: “I’m committed to getting this site redeveloped,” both to get more social housing back online and to bring some relief for locals dealing with the derelict site.
“We’ve shortlisted three proponents, and we’re working through their detailed proposals.”
He said it’s cheaper to get the demolition done as a package deal with whoever builds the new project then send in the dozers now.
“That seems a simple proposition, but as is the case with other housing developments, you tie the demolition into the redevelopment, and that’s a cost saving overall.”
by DAVID BELL