By Cathy Jones 2011
The Strathfield South Public Housing Project of the late 1940s was designed to alleviate chronic housing shortages following World War II and to provide quality housing for lower income family, especially returned servicemen. The 1930s Depression followed by World War II, lead to a virtual cessation of building activity in NSW. The NSW Government estimated in 1946 that 80,000 homes were not built because of the depression and another 80,000 were not built due to the WWII. It was estimated by the end of WWII that Sydney had a shortfall of 90,000 houses and return of ex-servicemen would exacerbate the demand for housing.
In 1945, the NSW Government compulsorily acquired land from the trustees of the Ebenezer Ford estate in Strathfield South in the area including streets such as High, Amaroo, Noble and Macarthur. The Housing Commission developed a new subdivision plan, involving the redesign of 108 land lots. 3 lots were allocated for a park, which was later known as Edwards Park. It was estimated that this new estate would provide accommodation for over 400 people, housed in single storey separate dwellings and gardens with either two or three bedrooms.
Allocation of Commission housing was targeted on basis of need, with ex-servicemen receiving at least half of all dwellings built. The Strathfield South development included concreted roads, kerbing and guttering and connected sewerage. Many metropolitan suburbs in Sydney were not connected to sewerage until the 1970s, dependent on septic tanks and night soil collectors.
On 24 February 1958, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother visited Australia and her itinerary included visitations to recent Government Housing projects including Dundas Valley, Villawood and Strathfield South. Her visit to Strathfield South included a drive through the streets of the housing development and past the new High Street Library and Edwards Park waving to local schoolchildren who lined the streets. To commemorate this visit, Strathfield Council laid out new gardens outside the Branch Library and erected flagpoles in Edwards Park.
By 1956, the Housing Commission had constructed over 23,000 dwellings in Sydney and suburbs, which accounted for one-fifth of all houses and flats in NSW. Though the initial strategy for housing involved long-term rental agreements, Government policy altered from the 1950s with emphasis on home ownership. By 1976, over 40% of former Housing Commission homes were in private ownership. Most of the homes built in Strathfield South have now transferred into private ownership.