Federal Labor has pledged $10 million to develop supported student accommodation for homeless or at risk young people as part of the ACT Government’s Woden CIT project.
The project’s Youth Foyer will deliver 20 self-catered apartments to house 20 young people, aged 16 to 24, for two years at a time.
Key community services will support the students as they train and study.
ACT Labor Senator Katy Gallagher said the innovative, wrap-around model was a great way to give young people the stability to prevent them losing touch with education.
“We know if kids are disengaged from education, they’re at risk of homelessness and have a much tougher experience in their late teens to early 20s,” Senator Gallagher said.
“This is a sign of what we can do when you have a Commonwealth and an ACT Government that wants to work together to make facilities and services right for the people of the ACT, particularly young people at a time when we’ve got skill shortages.
“And we know investing in kids doing it a bit tough is going to mean a brighter future for them. It’s also a good outcome for the economy.”
ACT Tertiary Education Minister Chris Steel said the Youth Foyer project went hand in hand with Federal Labor’s fee-free vocational education policy, which was in stark contrast to the Coalition’s plans to increase student fees for courses such as community services and early childhood by up to 250 per cent.
Mr Steel said the Youth Foyer would include common areas for study and recreation, and kitchenettes in the apartments.
He said the preferred tenderer for the CIT project, Lendlease, would develop detailed designs based on input from community consultation now under way.
“I’m looking forward to getting feedback from students, community organisations, those who will be involved in delivering this brand new supported accommodation model in the ACT, which really is a first for the ACT,” he said.
“We’re hoping this will provide a template for us to use around the ACT for further supported accommodation particularly focused on young people.”
Mr Steel said the Youth Foyer was expected to be completed about the same time as the rest of the CIT campus in 2025.
Woden Community Service CEO Jenny Kitchin said the Youth Foyer would make a big difference to young people wanting to study but without stable housing.
“We work with many disengaged young people struggling at school who would love to continue their education but are unable to do so because they are homeless or couch surfing or in unsatisfactory accommodation,” Ms Kitchin said.
“Combining the two gives these people a huge opportunity to step out of their disadvantage and move on to becoming really active and involved people in the economy. We look forward to working on this project with the government.”
Senator Gallagher said housing in general was a major issue and Labor believed the Commonwealth could do more than the Morrison Government was prepared to do.
“We want to be at the table with the states and territories talking to them about innovative solutions like this, that will help not only deliver new projects and build accommodation in town centres, but actually support those finding it hard to pay the rent and impossible to buy.
“Most young people don’t even think it’s going to be possible for them to buy and we need to deal with that.”
Senator Gallagher said the ACT would benefit from its $10 billion Australia Future Fund, which would build 30,000 affordable homes for lower income households and key workers.
“We also want to work with states and territories who are the public housing providers and who fund a lot of the community services that support homeless people in partnership with the Commonwealth,” she said.
Senator Gallagher also raised hopes the ACT, like Tasmania, would have its longstanding housing debt forgiven.
Woden CIT is being developed in conjunction with the new Transport Interchange on Callam Street.