Much has been said recently about the development of Gungahlin Town Centre.
In February this year, I moved a motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly, calling on the government to improve the mix of development in our town centre.
The aim is to make sure our planning laws provide for a mix of activity in our centres. That people have homes, that we have places to work, places to shop, places to come together as a community.
The motion was unanimously supported by all parties. It is positive we are seeing this change in our planning system.
At the same time as this change is being implemented, housing markets around Australia are under immense pressure.
Canberra is no exception.
Median house prices are going up, suburb records are being smashed, and fewer properties are being listed for sale. Rental properties are scarce, and prices are at an all-time high, while real estate agents are inundated with applicants offering well above the asking price.
The nature of this makes the private rental market unfair and a struggle for tenants across all major cities, including Canberrans, to find a suitable rental property.
The stark reality is that people are not able to attain the housing they need.
We all know that when supply is low and demand is high, the price goes up. That is exactly what is happening with prices for sales and rentals, resulting in families struggling to find a suitable home by either route.
On 14 April, four blocks were released by the Suburban Land Agency, and they were sold on 12 May. The release of these blocks has caused frustration and concern in our community.
The community wants to know that its town centre will be a hub of thriving commercial activity. To date, the development mix in Gungahlin has not delivered on the expectations of our community, with limited commercial tenancies and many vacant shops.
The four blocks that were sold are zoned for mixed-use development, meaning they can have a range of uses including commercial and residential housing. The blocks will provide 454 homes, including 76 affordable homes and eight public housing homes – housing we need for members of the community to be able to make it into a home at all.
However, community concern has not gone unheard and already the purchasers of the blocks have indicated they will be looking at a range of options, including commercial space and potentially even a campus for a vocational training college.
To hold back those blocks would take away housing for people right when our city needs it most.
As I said when I moved the motion in February, improving how an appropriate mix of development types is realised is not the same as stopping residential development.
Because we need both – commercial and residential spaces at these blocks.
It is as simple as that.
Suzanne Orr MLA is the Labor Member for Yerrabi.