27 March 2023

Inner north public housing opens as government tracks towards construction goal

| Claire Fenwicke
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Dickson public housing complex

Mohammed Wazir from ABA Construction Managers, Community Service Directorate Housing Assistance executive director Louise Gilding, Housing Minister Yvette Berry and Housing ACT infrastructure and contracts executive branch manager Catherine Loft at the new Dickson public housing complex. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

It’s been flagged as a milestone in the ACT Government’s public housing renewal program: the completion of 21 new dwellings in Dickson.

The block of land, once accommodating six homes, now has units ranging from two to four bedrooms ready for tenants and families in need of housing support.

Minister for Housing and Suburban Development Yvette Berry said these apartments replaced homes constructed in the 1960s and have been built to Gold Class or Class C Adaptable standards.

“They can adapt to people as they grow older, so adjustments can be made, and all-abilities are accounted for so they can age in place if that’s required,” she said.

Housing ACT infrastructure and contracts executive branch manager Catherine Loft said she was “very proud” the homes were able to be delivered two years after the sod was first turned.

“I think it’s pretty incredible through COVID and what we’ve experienced through materials and labour shortages to actually deliver this in 24 months,” she said.

“We’ll be able to see people begin to move in shortly.”

Importantly, the complex is located near schools, shops, medical services and public transport options.

Ms Loft said the cost came in just under $500,000 per dwelling and was designed to blend in with the surrounding area.

“We don’t want large complexes any more, we know that doesn’t work. We want public housing to feel like the rest of the community,” she said.

“The number of properties is quite unique, we work with specific housing architects to say what fits in with the community and the design.

“We don’t want a complex to stand out as public housing, and I think this looks fantastic.”

The complex will cater to all types of families and people who need housing support. But those who have lost their homes under the renewal scheme will be given priority.

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About 1000 old public housing properties are being renewed across the Territory, with the government also committing to building another 400 new public housing properties to meet demand.

Ms Berry said the program was on track to reach the halfway mark of 500 renewed properties by mid-2024. Close to 400 have already been delivered with another 700 either in the design or construction phases.

But given increased population projections and the cost of living crisis, she admitted targets may need to be readjusted.

“We’re seeing a growth in population in the ACT, so we’ll need to consider that as part of our indicative land release programs. Infrastructure that supports that population increase and of course, importantly for the ACT, public housing which is our priority,” Ms Berry said.

“The last couple of years has put more pressure on our public housing system, we’re not shying away from that and we’re keeping on with our program.”

More will be known once the Federal Government, which proposed a $10 billion social housing fund earlier this year, firms up its numbers in the May budget.

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But funding isn’t the only issue.

Ms Berry said the ACT also needed to take a harder look at other types of housing it could offer, not just public.

“It’s rentals, it’s affordability, it’s accessibility, community housing,” she said.

“There’s a whole range of different approaches that governments need to make now and make adjustments to make sure everybody, regardless of their income or where they come from, can get into a home that meets their needs,” she said.

“Public housing plays a big role in that in the ACT. But there’s a whole lot of other areas we’re working on, and in partnership with the Federal Government we will see some big changes happening.

“It’s a complex issue.”

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It took a Greens member of the ACT Government to point out there are less buses now than a few decades ago.
Who will be brave enough to point out there’s also less public housing dwellings than there used to be as well?

You’d think one of the first thing you learn at journalism class is how to ask an insightful question of a politician who throws out these big claims.

Unfortunately Canberra journalists seem to happily accept a government minister saying “we’re delivering new public housing”, “we’re delivering a better bus service”, “we’re delivering a better incarceration solution”.

Best houses are free houses

A whole lot of other areas they are working on – apart from the inner south, I bet. Money talks and government baulks.

Good looking new houses, basically a lottery win for the tenants who gets one. If you include that rent is capped and maintenance is done by the government it’s a pretty good deal.

People wouldn’t mind if this generosity is only given to genuine applicants, and not the high double income couples whose rent will be still capped at 25%. For these people it should market rate.

Why don’t you report these people?

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