Government looks to private sector to solve ‘stressed’ social housing

Ian Bushnell 31 March 2021 32
Housing Minister Yvette Berry

Housing Minister Yvette Berry on the site of new public housing development in Dickson recently. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT Government has gone to the market seeking social housing providers who can supplement its plans to boost and renew public housing in the Territory.

The Government wants to field a range of proposals for both land and buildings as it works towards its $650 million goal to build 400 new dwellings and renew 1000 properties by 2024-25.

Canberra’s tight and expensive rental market is exacerbating housing stress in the Territory, even for those who may have jobs but whose income is not high enough to afford private rentals.

Welfare groups including the ACT Council of Social Services say there is a shortfall of 3000 affordable dwellings in the ACT and has been calling on the Government to do more to alleviate the situation including providing additional land for affordable housing and boosting the supply of social housing from non-government providers.

The tender document says the 2018 ACT Housing Strategy provides a roadmap for the ACT for the next decade and a key element is a commitment to strengthening social housing assistance.

The two-stage Expression of Interest process covers six categories – land only, house and house and land packages including established dwellings under construction or in design to be built.

The other categories include multi-unit developments of no more than 30 residences, including established complexes, under construction or in design to be built; multi-unit developments where the proposal is for the sale of individual units in a larger development; and any other proposal that would meet Housing ACT’s needs.

The tender document says Housing ACT is seeking more appropriate accommodation configurations to meet the changing needs of tenants and better integration of social housing into the community.

READ ALSO: Budget to give extra boost to public housing as report shows decline

It wants housing at the right price that is ‘fit for purpose’ and is cheaper to maintain and run with sustainable, energy-efficient and eco-friendly designs.

Properties that are adaptable and accessible will be preferred.

Housing ACT is particularly interested in replacement housing situated close to amenities and public transport.

It will look at single and multi-storey residences of two to six bedrooms including single and dual occupancy residences.

Multi-unit developments may include townhouses, units and/or apartments) of two to four bedrooms, including low-density developments of three to nine dwellings; medium density of 10 to 25; and high density, of more than 25.

If an entire complex is offered, a maximum yield of 30 will be required on one site, and where units within a larger complex are offered, no more than two dwellings per floor accessed by a single lift well will be considered.

Housing ACT will consider new or existing dwellings; knock-down, design and construct; design and construct and innovative proposals such as residential properties in mixed-use developments.

It will not look at studio apartments or bedsits, proposals requiring Territory plan or land use zoning changes or sites or dwellings in rural or industrial zones

“Providing an equitable, diverse and sustainable supply of housing for households at all income levels is a fundamental pillar of the strategy,” the tender document says.

“Across all stakeholders, community groups and industry professionals who were consulted during the development of the strategy, it was clear that housing pressure and stress points could be alleviated through a better supply of the right type of housing in the right locations.”

Housing Minister Yvette Berry said the government is doing its bit to ease housing pressures.

“The Growing and Renewing Public Housing program is increasing the portfolio’s flexibility to support the provision of safe, secure and sustainable homes that are close to services and transport for more people in need, regardless of their abilities or circumstances,” she said.

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32 Responses to Government looks to private sector to solve ‘stressed’ social housing
Tina Shooks Tina Shooks 6:21 pm 09 Apr 21

Perhaps if they put people in the 400 vacant premises they have, that might help, a little. What about the block of units in North Canberra, 10 years old, vacant for 5 of those years, and now, they're proposing to knock it down. What about that?!!🤬

Harry Williams Harry Williams 2:59 pm 06 Apr 21

Many givt houses sitting vacant arou d Canberra.. fill them

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:38 pm 04 Apr 21

“….. it was clear that housing pressure and stress points could be alleviated through a better supply of the right type of housing in the right locations.”

With stunning insights like this, the problems will clearly be solved in no time…..

This looks like another lukewarm effort from a government which often appears to be spreading itself and its resources too thinly – seemingly bored with and not overly interested in important areas of day-to-day responsibility (unless they become very high profile, like Covid-19) and drawn, like moths to a (carbon-neutral, of course) flame, to so much that is, spin aside, truly ephemeral and marginal.

Many of the problems here rest at the feet of the federal government – taxation, population, interest rate, and lending standards policies are crucial elements of this mess – but a state or territory government which gave this issue genuine priority could make a real difference, too.

David Brown David Brown 4:55 pm 04 Apr 21

So they want someone else to fix the problem they created? 🤔

Acton Acton 4:38 pm 04 Apr 21

Extortionate rate rises + high land taxes + apartment densification + restricted land releases + cashed up overseas buyers = high rents + high house prices + high mortgages = housing unaffordability.
Despite record low interest rates and 20 years of Greens/Labor bleating, housing has never been so unaffordable.
The great danger lies in the future when home loan interest rates rise and people can’t afford the repayments. In 1989 home loan interest rates got to 17%.
But wealthy ‘progressives’ vote for this regressive ACT Greens/Labor party because a sanctimonious warm inner glow of self-rightousness hides the reality of young people on low incomes struggling to afford a first home.
This is not a family friendly government

Maree Newhouse Maree Newhouse 4:37 pm 04 Apr 21

Maybe if the Government maintained the housing stock they have, rather than letting them fall into disrepair, and then have to demolish and rebuild, they wouldn't have a problem?

Phil Andrews Phil Andrews 4:06 pm 04 Apr 21

Start with your exorbitant Land Tax. Landlords pass it straight on to the tenant. 🤦🏻‍♂️

Jim Jim Jim Jim 12:55 pm 04 Apr 21

ACT Government can’t manage the public housing it has now! It’s disgraceful how many of these houses are allowed to fall into ruin and have become hoarding eyesores well below basic standards and to the detriment of their neighbours...then there’s the endless drug dealing and police raids. I live next to one. I’ve contacted the Minister, you get lip service and nothing is done.

    Ray Polglaze Ray Polglaze 3:09 pm 04 Apr 21

    This is a key problem. There needs to be more public housing, but the public housing there is the ACT needs to be better managed and maintained. That's important for both the people who live in public housing and for the people in the surrounding communities.

    It's also possible to go backwards on the number of public houses in the ACT while spending more money if that money disappears into replacing houses which have become unlivable because not enough has been spent on maintenance.

Grahame Watson Grahame Watson 9:32 am 04 Apr 21

Simple answer, Land Tax. If the ACT government stopped double dipping on investment properties they might get more investors and housing would become more affordable.

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 9:37 am 04 Apr 21

    Grahame Watson Best time to be cashing out if you have an investment property. Local government charges are only going to increase for everyone, not only investors i feel.

nobody nobody 9:14 am 04 Apr 21

What the government needs is some criteria to move people out of public housing after they are standing on their own two feet, then those newly vacated houses and units can be provided to people who are currently in need. Deborah Fosky was elected to the Assembly in 2004, then in 2005 she refused to move out of her public house in Yarralumla, despite her high income. How much of this still goes on today, and how many public housing dwellings should be vacated? The government has clear eligibility criteria to enter public housing, then no moving-out criteria.

Janet Mulgrue Janet Mulgrue 8:21 am 04 Apr 21

When we got married in the 70s many people put their name down for a government house in Canberra. That’s just the way it was. After about 2 years your name came to the top of the list and you had the choice of three. What has changed? Oh yes - it’s called local government.

Karin Hagel Karin Hagel 6:31 am 04 Apr 21

What about houses that have been left abandoned to go derelict in the ACT, could they be utilised in some way? I've seen a perfectly good 3 bedroom house go to ruin because the landlords have left it abandoned and I'm sure it isn't the only one. Always find it funny that you have to build within a certain time but you aren't required to keep it habitable. Tough to see in such a tight rental market.

Rheyce Spears Rheyce Spears 12:31 am 04 Apr 21

If you’re relying on the private sector to solve a humanitarian problem you know you’re failing at public policy.

Social housing is stressed because of lack of government investment. It’s high time to own it and fix it by injecting the funding required.

“Let’s let the private sector fix a government problem and then if it doesn’t work we can blame them”

Very poor form from a progressive government.

Paul Leins Paul Leins 11:01 pm 03 Apr 21


pollyhartley pollyhartley 10:54 pm 03 Apr 21

Looking to the private sector to solve its problems? What a joke. The government doesn’t want this problem ‘solved’. High property prices are a cash-cow for them so they’re effectively making decisions on housing with a conflict of interest. Not everyone needing housing in Canberra needs social housing either. Those average folks living alone with a pet who want something under $600 a week would benefit from professional organisations who own apartment complexes and manage long term leases. Emphasis on ‘professional’, not amateur. We can learn a lot from Europe (she said for the one millionth time to a government with wax-filled ears)….

Boweavil Kat Boweavil Kat 10:51 pm 03 Apr 21

Like that’s ever worked

jorie1 jorie1 8:34 pm 03 Apr 21

Would not recommend the ACT for anyone looking to buy a rental property, as the ACT government has introduced ‘rent control’ and landlords cannot charge the going market rate for rental properties each year. Rents are capped and can only be increased by Canberra CPI (which is currently only 1% each year, so about $7 a week). The ACT government fees and land taxes go up by a lot more than this each year. So it’s a losing situation for owners of rental properties, but a big win for the ACT government. The ACT government also charges excessive land tax on small properties compared to other states. I suggest potential rental property owners investigate carefully and go compare the costs to other states and you will see why owning a rental property in the ACT is not a good idea, and why rentals are becoming so much harder to get in the ACT.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:42 pm 03 Apr 21

    This doesn’t matter to the overpaid public servants who use property rental investments to offset their tax through negative gearing.

    jorie1 jorie1 1:59 pm 04 Apr 21

    That’s a big assumption to make, as lots of rental property owners do not negatively gear (50% according to ATO data). Nor are most rental property owners in the public service…

Brianna Brianna 7:11 pm 03 Apr 21

ACT Housing needs to make sure they have more properties with 2 bedrooms and a lot more with 4 bedrooms. They keep buying properties in high density and that causes even more problems.

James Forge James Forge 7:06 pm 03 Apr 21

I'd be interested to know how many publicly owned houses there were in 1988 compared to how many there are now.

At a guess the actual number has shrunk rather than keeping up with population growth.

Jacqueline Hyde Jacqueline Hyde 7:05 pm 03 Apr 21

Perhaps have public housing be more open to requests when downsizing.

I have a friend who is currently in a 4 bedroom house that she has been in since the 80s. Her kids have all moved out, and she has requested multiple times to be transferred to a smaller property. She needs a 2 bedroom, but gets continually told that she’s only eligible for a 1 bedroom, so she’s remained in the house.

Therefore, a family home is being under-utilised because there’s no leniency in allocations.

    Mookie Moo Mookie Moo 1:39 am 05 Apr 21

    Jacqueline Hyde There’s no common sense or practical clauses, just our absurd ‘computer says no’ governing society. So much waste everywhere.

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