Half the 140 homes planned in a proposed community housing Build-to-Rent development in Phillip will be designated as affordable in a three-way partnership between the ACT Government, the Canberra Southern Cross Cub and CHC Australia.
Construction is expected to start this year after approval of a development application and should be completed in 2026, ready for tenants to move in.
The one and two-bedroom units will be built on club land next to Stellar Canberra, its health and wellness centre at 50 Launceston Street.
The project will benefit from the government’s $60 million Affordable Housing Project Fund, established last year to grow the supply of affordable rental properties in Canberra and strengthen the community housing sector.
The fund will back six projects and has the potential to deliver about 280 new affordable rentals for low to moderate-income Canberrans.
The government says it will soon announce further community housing partnerships for Build-to-Rent projects as part of its strategy to address the housing crisis.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that with support from the Commonwealth’s Housing Australia Future Fund, the community housing sector was poised for a period of significant growth in the Territory.
Mr Barr said “affordable” meant properties would be let at about 25 per cent less than market rent.
He said the ACT needed at least 1500 new rental properties coming into the market each year to keep pace with demand.
“But our intent either in the short to medium term is to move into a period of deliberate oversupply with a view to get the rental vacancy rate up to what’s considered a more healthy level, which is around 3 per cent,” Mr Barr said
“What that means is a further boost to supply that needs to be across the entire rental spectrum.”
Mr Barr said that also included student accommodation and possibly a more premium product that would suit diplomats, parliamentary staffers, and people on temporary contracts.
Housing Minister Yvette Berry said this was a vital project that sent a powerful message, not just to people who need homes of their own, who might not be able to afford market rent, but to other organisations who want to partner with the government to address the housing crisis together.
“We’re serious about addressing these issues, but we can’t do it on our own, which is why we’re forming these partnerships,” she said.
CHC Australia CEO Andrew Hannan said the affordable units would suit low to moderate-income earners such as nurses, teachers, emergency services staff, community services staff, hospitality and retail workers.
He said the location was ideal, close to Woden Town Centre, Canberra College, the Canberra Hospital and public transport, and well suited to a mixed market and affordable build-to-rent development.
Tenants could retain their affordable unit if their economic circumstances changed but at the market rate. The next market-rent units to become vacant would then be let at the affordable rate.
Mr Hannan said that while this development would be all apartments, townhouses were also very much in the mix for other prospective projects.
“Our strategy is to look at multiple form types,” he said. “This particular project is a multi-unit apartment complex, but … most of our track record, in fact, is in townhouse-style development.
“And we recognise that that missing middle is a really key piece of the puzzle.”
Canberra Southern Cross Club president John Lewis said the development was a key part of the club’s diversification strategy to help ensure a sustainable club over the next 50 years.
Mr Lewis said the board had shown a lot of diligence and foresight in its careful planning for this block of land, and the management team had spent the better part of a decade bringing these plans to fruition.
“We are delighted to partner with Community Housing Canberra, the largest provider of affordable housing in Canberra, and we also believe the best,” he said.
“We have found in this build-to-rent development a commercially viable business model that also provides tangible benefits to our community through the provision of affordable rental accommodation close to the Canberra Hospital and Woden Town Centre.”