What can I buy in Sydney for NZ$1m? Real estate agents 'just laughed'

Shelley Jensen will have to hand over the keys to the home she bought 16 years ago.
PETER RAE/FAIRFAX

Shelley Jensen will have to hand over the keys to the home she bought 16 years ago.

Shelley Jensen has been scouring suburbs throughout Sydney in recent weeks in the hope of finding a home that even partly resembles the three-bedroom house she has been forced to give up.

But real estate agents have "just laughed" when she asked them what the A$960,000 (NZ$1.02 million) the government will pay for compulsorily acquiring her home in the inner-city suburb of St Peters will buy her elsewhere in Sydney.

"It is quite frightening because I don't know if I will find anything in Sydney – I might be forced to Woop Woop, where I have no connections," she said.

"The whole thing is quite terrifying. I am used to [St Peters] and I have connections in the area."

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On Wednesday, the 62-year-old will have to hand over the keys to the home she bought 16 years ago to staff from Roads and Maritime Services, which is acquiring her property for the A$16.8 billion WestConnex motorway project.

Jensen's task of finding a new home is made harder because her ability to borrow money is compromised by the fact that she had to stop working two years ago due to a medical condition.

"I have no borrowing capacity – I'm living off the smell of an oily rag," she said. "I haven't seen an ethical approach at all from the government. I have just seen RMS giving the minimum that they have to pay."

The Baird government announced on Tuesday that homeowners whose properties are compulsorily acquired for major infrastructure projects such as WestConnex will gain extra time, support and almost A$50,000 in additional compensation.

The overhaul comes as the government finally released a report by David Russell, SC, into the state's land acquisition process, more than two years after it was completed.

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But one of Jensen's neighbours, Richard Capuano, 48, described the changes as "an absolute insult" and he demanded a full review into the acquisition process for WestConnex and for "residents to be recompensed for what they were cheated out of".

"It doesn't go anywhere far enough. It is just more token bulls*** and crocodile tears from [Premier Mike] Baird. I refuse to accept it," he said.

"In the current Sydney property market there is absolutely no way that myself or the other residents will be able to buy back into the area," he said. "I can't even buy a two-bedroom unit across the road in a crappy apartment that is falling apart."

Capuano, a freelance filmmaker, will be forced to leave the four-bedroom terrace, on Campbell Street, which he has owned since 1998, by the end of the month.

Capuano said he and other St Peters residents were aware when they bought their property that they could one day be acquired for roadways. However, his main grievance is the way the government has handled the process. 

He said the government's offer for his property of A$993,000 – which includes stamp duty, legal fees and moving costs – was well below an independent valuation of A$1.5m.

 - SMH

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