Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

In defence of new public housing

By Chris Steel MLA - 6 April 2017 31

government housing

Part of living in an egalitarian city means ensuring that our most vulnerable people are supported. It is the measure of our community, and what makes Canberra such a great place to live.

As a Labor candidate one of the reasons I stood for election to ensure our most vulnerable people get the support they need. That’s why now as a Labor Member I also support the Government’s public housing renewal plan and the proposed investment and developments in my electorate to build more quality adaptive housing for existing public housing tenants.

One of the ACT Government’s most important roles is to provide people with a roof over their head, when they and their children cannot afford the private market. It is the first step in tackling any further aspects of disadvantage.

The ACT has always had a significant level of public housing as part of our housing mix. The ‘salt and pepper’ approach of public housing in the ACT has meant that there are small pockets of co-located housing in almost all suburbs (Wright has been, up to now, an exception).

Part of the rationale for this is that tenants are there to support each other and community organisations are there to support the tenants – a supportive housing model.

The supportive housing will be built on parts of Community Facility-zoned land, which is consistent with the permitted uses in the Territory Plan.

Supportive housing is housing for those in need of support. The tenants will be carefully selected by Housing ACT, with assistance from community service organisations, on the basis of their suitability for this type of development in these areas.

The small medium density developments proposed by the Government are a world away from the unsustainable, high density concentrations of disadvantage along Northbourne Avenue.

The Northbourne Flats, in particular, have been ‘hard to let’ to Housing ACT tenants for years, with many remaining empty because they are inappropriate, particularly for families, with many of them one bedroom apartments.

The public housing on Northbourne has reached the end of its useful life. The flats are simply unsuitable for residents – that’s why I’m very supportive of the redevelopment of these flats with residents moving to new, better quality homes throughout our city. Readers may remember that this was successfully achieved in the past with the demolition of unsuitable, high density flats at Burnie Court in Lyons.

This is not the first time that tenants have been moved into more suitable, lower density and better quality accommodation. Several years ago in Chapman and Kambah new adaptive public housing developments were built under the economic stimulus package by the ACT Government. These were very similar in size to the current proposals, and were also built on Community Facilities zoned land. These were also just as controversial at the time in the community.

The final result of these developments has proved the success of the supportive housing model. I doorknocked these housing communities during the election last year and asked some of the residents how they found living there; overwhelmingly it was positive and the people welcoming and friendly. When I doorknocked the Chapman townhouses I didn’t even know it was public housing initially because the quality of the housing was so high and it fitted in so well with the neighbouring community.

While I support more public housing on the Southside, I also support genuine consultation taking place on them with the community. In the past constructive consultation on public housing has led to great outcomes in Kambah, Chapman and in Greenway. For example, in Kambah, on the former Mount Neighbour School, a community room and garden was developed to support the group activities of the residents.

I’ve spoken before about the importance of consultation before development applications are lodged. In this case the ACT Government has assessed suitability of the sites for supportive housing and gone out to consult with the community on the form of the developments before any development applications have been lodged. While it was not ideal that Weston Creek Community Council cancelled its meeting last week due to large numbers, I encourage residents to attend the drop in sessions scheduled this week on Friday and Saturday by registering here. It is an opportunity to ask all their questions of the Public Housing Taskforce and provide specific feedback. This feedback will be used to help shape the final form of any future developments.

I hope that a respectful dialogue with the community through the consultation, both improves the form of the developments, but also builds a better understanding in the community about the needs and aspirations of public housing tenants.

And I encourage all Canberrans to support public housing tenants, because they are people, and as our neighbours they deserve to have quality shelter in a supportive community – sometimes even next door to us.

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
31 Responses to
In defence of new public housing
1
JC 10:57 am
06 Apr 17
#

My mum benified from the new builds as part of the economic stimulus package moving from an early 1970’s house which the government sold moving into a new build complex on catchpole street Macquarie.

This is a complex of about 12 2 bedroom townhouses and I bet many would not even realise they are government housing. The government built similar complexes all over Canberra including one of similar size to what is proposed in Weston Creek in Florey.

In fact the complex looks better and has less dodgey people compared to the older private town house development next door.

Overall think people are really getting their knickers in a knot over very little. The vast majority of public housing tenants are fine and yes there are some rat bags but you know my experience is there are rat bags who own their own homes or rent privately too. In fact in our old street the 4 government houses were better looked after by their tenants than a couple of privately owned homes.

Regardless of what one thinks of the light rail project or land developers in general there is no doubt that the flats in civic have come to the end of their useful lives and building new places using the proceeds of the sale of those places I would have thought was an absolute no brainer regardless of what side of politics you were to live on.

2
Blen_Carmichael 11:26 am
06 Apr 17
#

Chris Steel, I’ve never heard of you before this, which is remiss on my part as I should take more interest in local affairs. I understand you’re 30 years old and have held office for just over six months. Presumably you’ve got a bright future, but if I were you, I’d be careful about lecturing others of the need for “respectful dialogue”. Many residents are rightly unhappy with your government’s disdainful attitude towards consultation. Acknowledging those mistakes would be a good step towards rectifying that, but I’m not seeing it in your words. What I am seeing is the ever-so-subtle imputation that those who question the government’s approach to this are against the concept of public housing in general. So before you start building those houses, build some bridges.

3
Maya123 12:06 pm
06 Apr 17
#

If that an actual photograph of new ACT public housing? Those fences look like they are locking the tenants in. The only fence worse, would be a high brick fence. At least the wire fences let in light.

4
wildturkeycanoe 1:36 pm
06 Apr 17
#

Back in 2015, John Hargreaves said about public housing policy – “The assumption that ACT Housing will build more concentrations of public housing is erroneous as well. Certainly, assisted accommodation for those with a disability is a possibility but salt and pepper means that the old way of building streets and streets of houses is long gone.”

Now Chris Steel is saying – “The ‘salt and pepper’ approach of public housing in the ACT has meant that there are small pockets of co-located housing in almost all suburbs (Wright has been, up to now, an exception).”
Now how do these statements add up to this? –

From the Public Housing Renewal Taskforce, regarding Holder – “The Taskforce is considering designs and layout options for up to 30 two-bedroom dwellings, in a mix of one- and two-storey apartments and townhouses.”
From the CT on April 6th 2017, “Most of the developments are groups of single-storey, two-bedroom townhouses, except at Stapylton Street, Holder, where the plan includes apartments.”
This is not salt & pepper, this is just a repeat of the Northbourne Avenue flats on a smaller scale. They are saying the old apartments are not suitable for many families due to being too small, so how is just one extra bedroom going to help?
Even though the apartments will be new, the tenants will still be living alongside similar neighbors.

“The small medium density developments proposed by the Government are a world away from the unsustainable, high density concentrations of disadvantage along Northbourne Avenue.” So too will the jobs these disadvantaged people possibly have close to their previous home. Now they get moved to an area that will require a lengthy commute every day. Now their support group, their children’s school friends, everything they have that made their lives bearable is going to be a memory.

Aw..heck, there’s no point complaining, the pollies have made their decision anyway.

5
Garfield 2:22 pm
06 Apr 17
#

Blen_Carmichael said :

Chris Steel, I’ve never heard of you before this, which is remiss on my part as I should take more interest in local affairs. I understand you’re 30 years old and have held office for just over six months. Presumably you’ve got a bright future, but if I were you, I’d be careful about lecturing others of the need for “respectful dialogue”. Many residents are rightly unhappy with your government’s disdainful attitude towards consultation. Acknowledging those mistakes would be a good step towards rectifying that, but I’m not seeing it in your words. What I am seeing is the ever-so-subtle imputation that those who question the government’s approach to this are against the concept of public housing in general. So before you start building those houses, build some bridges.

I agree it could be interpreted he’s suggesting people opposed to the Weston Creek developments are against public housing. It looks to me like a classical political combination of issues to try and confuse the wider community, or in other words spin, but it does seem more subtle than most we see.

He certainly hasn’t mentioned that there are no plans for public housing on Northbourne – you know that area that’s just lost a lot of public housing and is about to have super-duper public transport links to the city centre and Gungahlin. Surely that’s a good place to have some public housing, but maybe they need every last dollar of rates and stamp duty they can extract from new construction in the corridor to try and pay for the light rail.

He also failed to mention that the definition of community use land was changed relatively recently, last year I think, to allow public housing when in the past it was for community facilities, not residential use. It sounds like it was pushed through under the radar as I certainly don’t remember the opposition or media picking up on it at the time. It strikes me as a little odd that while the fate of the Northbourne public housing flats was known well before last year’s election, the public is only finding out about the location of replacement dwellings now. Surely the government wasn’t afraid of losing votes were they? Now the Opposition has a few extra members and there’s actually someone sitting on the cross bench, hopefully there will be more effective analysis of proposed bills this term.

Finally, he’s also failed to mention that Canberra is supposedly the bush capital. Part of that for me has always meant that people should have easy access to green spaces for recreation and fitness purposes. These developments in Weston Creek seem to be cutting out a lot of green space, with Wright reportedly set to lose their only green space. The further people need to travel, the less likely they are to go, with a possible long term decline in health and fitness which would eventually put the budget under a little more pressure. Alternatively some people will drive instead of walking meaning more greenhouse gas emissions that will dent the ACT’s green credentials.

6
Chris Steel MLA 2:23 pm
06 Apr 17
#

Maya123 said :

If that an actual photograph of new ACT public housing? Those fences look like they are locking the tenants in. The only fence worse, would be a high brick fence. At least the wire fences let in light.

That is a photo from Chisholm I believe when they were first built. There are plantings which are meant to obscure the fencing. There are a range of designs for new housing though and the new housing in coombs is quite different.

7
Chris Steel MLA 2:30 pm
06 Apr 17
#

Blen_Carmichael said :

Presumably you’ve got a bright future, but if I were you, I’d be careful about lecturing others of the need for “respectful dialogue”. Many residents are rightly unhappy with your government’s disdainful attitude towards consultation. .

I am very supportive of consultation – but the best way to consult is to start consulting and that is what the Government has started before any DA and I am encouraging people to get involved.

The reason I have noted previous experiences are because there have been previous projects in my neighbourhood in Kambah and I actually was involved in the ACT Government housing policy at the time they were built and have learned from those experiences about what can been achieved when the community works constructively to help move tenants into quality housing. It is important that it is respectful because we are talking about vulnerable people.

8
Blen_Carmichael 2:39 pm
06 Apr 17
#

Chris Steel MLA said :

Blen_Carmichael said :

Presumably you’ve got a bright future, but if I were you, I’d be careful about lecturing others of the need for “respectful dialogue”. Many residents are rightly unhappy with your government’s disdainful attitude towards consultation. .

I am very supportive of consultation – but the best way to consult is to start consulting and that is what the Government has started before any DA and I am encouraging people to get involved.

I’m glad you are supportive of consultation – but that’s not what I’m picking up from articles such as this one:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/anger-grows-at-woden-public-housing-meeting-20170405-gve84a.html

9
TinyTank 2:46 pm
06 Apr 17
#

Chris Steel MLA said :

Maya123 said :

If that an actual photograph of new ACT public housing? Those fences look like they are locking the tenants in. The only fence worse, would be a high brick fence. At least the wire fences let in light.

That is a photo from Chisholm I believe when they were first built. There are plantings which are meant to obscure the fencing. There are a range of designs for new housing though and the new housing in coombs is quite different.

Quite different, how? I live in Coombs and walk past the new housing developments each day. Unfortunately the black chain fence screams ‘social housing’ and doesn’t offer the tenants any privacy in their yard or lounge room. Most of the tenants have put up bamboo screens or shade sails on the fence (understandably).

On a side note, I’ve had no trouble with my new neighbours and make an effort to say hello when I walk past. Our vulnerable members of society deserve a safe place to call home and if that’s in my suburb, and on my street, so be it.

10
Chris Steel MLA 4:58 pm
06 Apr 17
#

TinyTank said :

Chris Steel MLA said :

Maya123 said :

If that an actual photograph of new ACT public housing? Those fences look like they are locking the tenants in. The only fence worse, would be a high brick fence. At least the wire fences let in light.

That is a photo from Chisholm I believe when they were first built. There are plantings which are meant to obscure the fencing. There are a range of designs for new housing though and the new housing in coombs is quite different.

Quite different, how? I live in Coombs and walk past the new housing developments each day. Unfortunately the black chain fence screams ‘social housing’ and doesn’t offer the tenants any privacy in their yard or lounge room. Most of the tenants have put up bamboo screens or shade sails on the fence (understandably).

This is good feedback for the Taskforce. They want to hear people’s thoughts on the form of the development including the design of the housing.

11
sumarai 4:59 pm
06 Apr 17
#

Reduce the density of the developments and they may be more widely accepted

12
Chris Steel MLA 5:19 pm
06 Apr 17
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

“The small medium density developments proposed by the Government are a world away from the unsustainable, high density concentrations of disadvantage along Northbourne Avenue.” So too will the jobs these disadvantaged people possibly have close to their previous home. Now they get moved to an area that will require a lengthy commute every day. Now their support group, their children’s school friends, everything they have that made their lives bearable is going to be a memory.

Aw..heck, there’s no point complaining, the pollies have made their decision anyway.

To the contrary the form of the developments including their size is under consultation. I encourage you to make your comments to the Public Housing Taskforce through the consultation sessions.

Each housing tenant is being supported through the transition including where their preferred place of residence is. Many will remain in the Inner North while other will be happy to move to other parts of the city. The Southside is a very attractive place to live because of its proximity to community and health facilities, good schools and direct bus services from Weston Creek to the City and to Woden.

13
John Moulis 5:23 pm
06 Apr 17
#

There is a large building being built around the corner from me in Macfarland Cres Chifley with ACT Government banners on the fence. It can’t be public housing because new public housing has Community Services on the banner as well.

A month or so ago railings went up on the roof. I went on Facebook and said that it had something to do with Juvenile Detention or the prison because prisoners like to get on the roof during sieges and the railings were there to stop them falling off. A few days after I posted that the railings were taken off.

So what is this building? Are the people of Pearce and Chifley about to have prisoners living amongst us? I’d really like to know.

14
RobS 6:31 pm
06 Apr 17
#

It’s a nice touch that Chris doesn’t mention the **rescheduled Weston Creek Community Meeting** which is being held TONIGHT at Chapman Primary school (7:30pm), or the fact that the Taskforce has refused to attend the rescheduled event. That’s great community consultation.

Chris also fails to mention that the housing planned for Wright will occupy *at least half* of the little land (half of 4900m2) reserved for community facilities in a suburb which is already zoned at 95% housing (or mixed use housing/commercial). Wright has green spaces and no other community facilities to speak of. None.

What will be interesting will be to see what happens to what is left of the community zoned land. There certainly won’t be enough space for a mixed used hall, a church or something similar which is found in most other suburbs.

Don’t worry Chris, we’ll be sure to remind the residents of Molonglo how you supported this shameless land grab come the next election.

15
Maya123 6:32 pm
06 Apr 17
#

Actually, looking at those houses, they would look better without fences. Plant ground covers for those gardens where the tenants don’t want to garden, and leave those tenants who want to garden to plant what suits them.

1 2 3

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au

Search across the site