9 April 2024

ACT Greens pledge 10,000 more public homes in 10 years if elected

| Claire Fenwicke
Join the conversation
Shane Rattenbury, Sam Nugent, Rebecca Vassarotti

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, Brindabella candidate Sam Nugent and deputy leader Rebecca Vassarotti have announced the party’s ambitious plan to deliver 10,000 public housing dwellings by 2035. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

The ACT Greens have pledged to build 10,000 public homes in 10 years if they gain power at the upcoming election.

The party has promised to build and buy the homes, along with introducing several other initiatives to accelerate delivery and provide more certainty that public homes will be built.

“We have been spun the line for far too long that housing is a great investment for everyone but governments,” ACT Greens deputy leader Rebecca Vassarotti said.

“Make no mistake: this is a bold and transformative policy, but it is also eminently achievable and affordable.”

The party engaged Purdon Strategy and Economics to cost the plan, which is based on the conditions that the Territory would have an infill policy of 80 per cent (rather than the current 70 per cent), a policy to increase development rights in residential zoned land, and for the Suburban Land Agency to lower the price of land from ACT Government releases by 50 per cent when sold to Housing ACT.

The capital cost of 10,000 homes by 2035 has been estimated at $5 billion to $9.5 billion over the 10-year period, broken down into capital injections of $5.9 billion, appropriations to support capital injections of $10.1 million, and public debt interest of $1.7 billion. Revenue from land sales would also be $137 million lower.

The program would be staged to deliver about 500 homes each year for the first two years before ramping up, equating to $2.2 billion over a term of government, or $280 million each year.

Ms Vassarotti said the costings were “conservative” and achievable.

“In the context of an $8 billion budget each year, that is a fairly modest cost, particularly when we look at what we’re getting for that spend,” she said.

“This is about an infrastructure project … governments borrow [money] for infrastructure all the time, that doesn’t mean that we’re not able to provide services.”

READ ALSO Pocock says federal and ACT Labor governments have achieved little for Canberra voters

The ACT Greens would also look at other ways to raise the money or save costs elsewhere.

Leader Shane Rattenbury said this was an “essential spend” to correct a “significant market failure” that had occurred.

“We will pay for it through a mixture of Federal Government co-contribution, that we’ll be fiercely seeking, taking the necessary borrowings to be able to fund it, and resourcing it over time through the ordinary budget processes,” he said.

“This program [also] has the potential to bring significant savings back to government through reduced spending on a range of social services in corrections, health, and other areas that are [putting] significant pressures on the budget at the moment.”

Ms Vassarotti was confident it could all be paid for even if the Commonwealth didn’t come to the table.

“We think that the assumptions that are built into the costings are very achievable and we know that no matter what happens, there will be a significant infill program that’s happening over this period of time,” she said.

“We will work with all of the levers we have to ensure Housing ACT actually has a fair go and we’re able to create a situation where we’re not creating a false economy when Housing ACT needs to purchase land at a market rate.”

Another part of the policy is to establish a publicly owned developer and builder for public housing.

Ms Vassarotti said this would provide more certainty not only for building public houses but also for addressing the maintenance backlog and getting the government better value for money.

“A government developer and builder means, one, it won’t be profit that is the underlying desire [to build these homes], it will actually be providing homes to people, and [two], we’ll be able to take opportunities in terms of bulk purchases and bringing skills and trades together,” she said.

A prefabrication manufacturing hub would also be developed with a promise to deliver 280 prefabricated public housing dwellings by 2035.

Adaptive re-use of commercial buildings would be investigated to deliver 70 dwellings to the Housing ACT portfolio by 2028-29.

READ ALSO Project Coordination now owes $25 million, more projects impacted

The importance of this policy was highlighted by the personal experience of ACT Greens Brindabella candidate Sam Nugent.

She became homeless following a “violent” divorce and ended up sleeping in her car or under her office desk despite having a decent salary working in the mental health space.

Ms Nugent said she’d never considered public housing an option as she knew people were in situations worse than hers, knew the stock wasn’t there, and was ashamed to ask for help.

“Having a government go back to how it used to be and making public and affordable housing a landlord of choice, that gives you so much more options to start again when you have to start again – whether you want to or not,” she said.

“I wish I’d had that when I went through homelessness … I wish I could have had a different option to start again.”

As for the other parties heading into the election? Ms Vassarotti issued a challenge: “Demonstrate how you are going to deal with this issue, which is probably one of the biggest issues in our community and across Australia.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Incidental Tourist11:29 pm 08 Apr 24

Up to “… $9.5 billion over the 10-year period …” capital for 10,000 homes. This is almost a million per tiny apartment which aren’t worth even half of this price. In other words, it is extra $75,000 bill per every Canberra household. “Capital” excludes extra ongoing maintenance, operational, insurance and management costs which are to be paid on top. This financial black hole dwarfs even money thirsty tram. It means far more tax on everything and much deeper cost of living crisis.

“The program would be staged to deliver about 500 homes each year for the first two years before ramping up, equating to $2.2 billion over a term of government, or $280 million each year.”

We’ll just build a large suburb worth of additional housing per year and then ramp up from there. This is of course at a time with very little capacity and building companies going bankrupt, left and right.

OK …so how are you planning to pay for this?

“We will pay for it through a mixture of Federal Government co-contribution, that we’ll be fiercely seeking…”

We’ll beg the federal government to pay for it and when they refuse, we’ll raise taxes on Canberrans.

Good to see the Greens are still living in a fantasy world. Some things never change.

devils_advocate11:20 am 08 Apr 24

lol when you put it like that…

I got a chuckle, but then remembered these clowns are likely to continue to hold the balance of power and therefore effectively dictate policy

But all you can really do is lol at this point

Obviously an election year. What have the Greens / Labor been doing for the last 10-20 years. They’re lucky if they’ve built 1,000 public homes in that time. And now they’re saying they want to build 10,000 homes. They should have been doing this all along. Now they’re just desparately throwing out these kinds of policies. As far as I’m concerned they’ve more than had their chance to prove themselves and this kind of announcement is just more shallow promises.

William Newby10:42 pm 05 Apr 24

Completely detached from reality.

What reality are you talking about william? I suspect you arent homeless or paying extortionate rent for a cold and draughty rental where asking for repairs will make you homeless. There is a huge housing crisis in this city. Current policies have failed miserably.

No-one can take this mob seriously, given their past performance. Along with Labor, they cost us a bomb and deliver little of value, instead running down all of our existing assets, infrastructure and services. Useless!

How are you going to pay for this Rattenbury. You and Bars financial management is sending us broke. This is just more spiel during an election year. Hopefully we’ll see the last of you by years end.

Government must act directly to distribute land/housing equitably as was successfully conducted post WW2 by both major parties to raise the home ownership rate to 72%. Kudos to Sam and the greens for having the courage to take on the rent seekers and vested interests by proposing a return to what works. Disregard the naysayers who don’t understand history who smugly declare we can’t possibly do what has already worked well in the past.

Tom Worthington3:57 pm 05 Apr 24

Good to see a prefabrication manufacturing hub is included in the plan, but disappointing this is to deliver only 280 of the 10,000 dwellings. The hub could manufacture modules for inserting in retrofitted office buildings, as well as for new apartments and town houses, not just freestanding homes. One of the advantages of building homes in factories is that young people can learn a trade under supervision. The prefab homes don’t have to look like shipping containers, and can be indistinguishable from bespoke buildings.

An election year would not be an election year without the Greens sticking their heads up to try and make themselves noticeable and inject a bit of silliness, loopyness and fringiness into the occasion. A party that has been in a governing coalition with Labor since 2012. But here we go again, another smoke and mirrors policy announcement from the party’s leader and his deputy who I thought would know better.

It was only recently the ACT Greens, echoing their federal colleagues, was banging on about rental affordability. Headed by Jo Clay, the party was demanding that the government put a freeze on rental properties. This reckless proposal if successful would have potentially forced property investors out of the market and increased rental demand. Only last year the party’s federal branch, supported by the ACT Greens, was holding the government to ransom by hindering and refusing to support a plan for a $10 billion housing investment fund. Again, these reckless actions, if successful, would have put in doubt the government’s efforts to create thousands of new social and affordable houses.

Fortunately, the government and those experts who know better have been critical in their assessment of this latest proposal from the ACT Greens. Another silly proposal the party knows it will never be able to deliver to our city’s most vulnerable and those they pretend to care about. Unaffordable, irresponsible, unrealistic and dangerous are just some of the comments I have heard so far.

GrumpyGrandpa1:32 pm 06 Apr 24

Jack D.

When speaking of the government, one should remember that the ALP is an alliance with the Greens.
They are NOT a minority government.

The difficulty the ALP has is when they get into bed with the Greens’, they become tarnished with the loopyness and dillusionary ideology that the Greens bring to the relationship.

Labor and the Greens have a parliamentary agreement, not an alliance GG. The agreement is freely and publicly available on the ACT government website. Under the agreement, Labor has six MLA’s and the Greens three. The agreement focuses on health, education, transport, environment, climate change and social housing to name a few. Many of these promises were committed by Labor at the last election and have been delivered.

Labor is well aware of the loopyness and disillusionary ideology that the Greens bring to the alliance. These unfortunate traits are becoming more evident as we get closer to this year’s election!

What an absurd over reaction to a plan to build social housing. It hardly a revolutionary idea! Governments of all political views have done this succesfully in the past without a murmur of dissent. But when the greens propose an eminently sensible response to a deep rooted problem that is destroying the lives of the younger generation its somehow the worst idea ever!

Stephen Saunders2:18 pm 05 Apr 24

The Greens always have bold and impractical plans for the supply side of housing. But they’re not allowed to talk about the demand side, the massive population growth, because that would be Too Racist.

Haven’t even been able to build the simple infrastructure they promised over the last decade. What’s going to magically change?

When the Greens in the ACT government enter into a public private partnership that costs around half a million dollars per metre of Light Rail can any fair minded voter have faith that they can affordably build public housing?

Gregg Heldon12:27 pm 05 Apr 24

The land agency selling land to ACT housing?? Sounds a bit corrupt to me and how does it reduce land prices for Mum’s and Dads or builders who want to buy from the land agency?
The drugs are strong in that party, aren’t they.

Being the junior partners in a coalition government allows the Greens to make outlandish and impossible campaign ‘promises’ every four years, knowing full well that they’ll never be held to account.

devils_advocate12:49 pm 05 Apr 24

They are responding to the incentives they have in front of them. It is our responsibility to vote them out if we want change.

Greens have been a part of the cabinet since 2012, that’s 3 terms of the Assembly, and during that time have been a part of the government that reduced public housing and blew-out government debt. Now, they claim they are going to increase public housing, and increase government debt even further.

So here’s a challenge for the Greens, demonstrate how you are going to deal with the already unsustainable level of debt, and explain how will you deal with this massive amount of additional debt?

The greens had been in government with their labor mates for years. But now they’re pledging to do something?

devils_advocate9:57 am 05 Apr 24


Who is going to build these infill projects? Between the punitive LVC, unnecessary regulatory delays and favouritism, and ever increasing regulatory burden the risk to reward ratio makes it unfeasible, unless you have the capital and risk appetite to build in the inner south.

Good luck with it though!

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.