22 February 2022

Probing the polls: protesters' rights and public housing

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Public Housing Reid, Ainslie Ave. Photo: Michelle Kroll

Public housing in Ainslie Avenue, Reid. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Canberrans’ lives have been disrupted for more than a month now by various waves of protests and protesters, loosely gathered under the ‘Convoy to Canberra’ banner and culminating in a massive demonstration last weekend.

The protesters were focused on a wide array of causes, including religious freedoms, but were united by their opposition to vaccine mandates.

While ACT Policing has been measured in their response, locals were considerably more frustrated, calling for everything from water cannons to the armed forces to move the protesters on from campsites at the National Library lawns and EPIC. Others say the right to protest matters most, even when it’s inconvenient, and it’s the price of living in the national capital.

READ MORE Hear the protesters out and you might agree with them

The campers are now dispersed, but the argument continues. In an unusually strong response, many readers agreed that the group went too far, disrupting the lives of ordinary Canberrans to an unacceptable degree and for an unacceptably long period.

We asked, Do the “freedom protesters” have a right to disrupt Canberra with their actions?

A total of 4676 people voted. Your choices were No, their actions are unreasonable. Go home and stop harassing us. This received 67 per cent of the total, or 3137 votes. Alternatively, you could choose Yes, these are inherent democratic rights even when they’re inconvenient. This received 33 per cent of the total or 1539 votes.

This week, we’re wondering about plans to relocate public housing tenants from their properties. Housing ACT has begun officially notifying more than 300 public housing tenants that they will have to move as part of the ACT Government’s latest public housing renewal program.

READ ALSO Public housing tenants forced to relocate as renewal program steps up

The program has been focusing on its several thousand strong stock of three-bedroom houses across Canberra, asking tenants to move out so the sites can either be sold to generate re-investment funds or redeveloped to build modern homes.

A total of 314 targeted tenants received letters this week advising them they would need to move to another suitable public housing property. A government spokesperson said eviction will be a last resort.

But welfare and community organisations continue to argue that the renewal program will still leave a shortfall of housing in the ACT. Around 4000 people remain on Housing ACT’s waiting list, including 485 on the priority waitlist and construction times have blown out.

James Forge wrote: “If it weren’t a money-making exercise, the people would be moved out while their house was completely gutted and refurbished to modern standards and then moved back in.

“Unfortunately, it has to be a moneymaker, so the older places are getting sold off to the highest bidder or demolished and 2 or 3 dwellings placed where one currently is.”

But according to Theresa Gray, “It’s about time something is getting done. I hope it’s done compassionately and you consider the elderly and ensure they remain close to shops and public transport.

“Do not isolate them. Also, keep the elderly close to one another so they can support each other and not have to tolerate the mental health stress from some of the younger tenants in need.”

Our question this week is:

Should the ACT Government make some tenants relocate if it means more public housing?

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Because you deserve a three bedroom house for life even though you live there by yourself? Stupid

Build the new public housing first, then move the existing tenants into them before demolishing the old ones.

ChrisinTurner1:41 pm 23 Feb 22

Where is the cost/benefit in demolishing hundreds of air-conditioned public housing apartments and putting the money into a tram to Woden, instead of more public housing. The waiting lists go up and the number of public housing units goes down.

The cost/benefit is the dramatic reduction in crime and drugs in our neighbourhood and if you live in Turner like me Chris, you’d notice the dramatic amelioration of the northern corridor into Canberra. The problem with public housing is if you have no job and are homeless you can technically come from any part of the country to get subsidised housing in the ACT. We are attracting thousands of vagabonds and dole bludgers from NSW by building more social housing. It is not solving a problem it is just making it worse.

Roger Mungummary9:38 am 23 Feb 22

What a rubbish poll question! It’s right up there with have you stopped beating your dog! It makes the erroneous assumption the funds raised by the government’s dodgy deals are going into increasing public housing. There is zero guarantee of that. The Barr government has a disgraceful record on public housing with people languishing for years in their endless waiting lists. They can find money for huge red elephants running through developer expensive properties but they’re worse than Liberals when it comes to the poor in Canberra

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