29 June 2023

Project Independence issues 'call for help' to community after social housing complex robbed

| Travis Radford
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Future residents of Project Independence Phillip stand in front of the construction site

Future residents of Project Independence Phillip visited the construction site earlier this year. Photo: Project Independence.

Project Independence has appealed to the community after four dishwashers were stolen from their new social housing development in Phillip just weeks before it was officially opened.

The complex, which will house 10 Canberrans with intellectual disabilities once completed, has experienced many setbacks since the first sod was turned in 2019.

These have included COVID and the subsequent ballooning of building costs by 47 per cent to more than $2.8 million, persistent rain and now the burglary.

“I suppose you just think, ‘What else can happen and why?'” Project Independence CEO Dianne O’Hara said.

Dianne O'Hara seated at a table

Project Independence CEO Dianne O’Hara said the theft of the dishwashers was “just mind-blowing”. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The new dishwashers had been delivered to the site during the final stages of development of the long-awaited project and were locked inside one of the houses ahead of their installation.

ACT Policing was alerted to the burglary on Friday, 9 June, and determined the dishwashers had been stolen between 4 pm on Thursday, 8 June, and 7 am on Friday, 9 June.

But Ms O’Hara said despite the setback, Project Independence was determined to honour the July move-in date for residents.

“We’ve obviously had to replace the dishwashers and [the replacement dishwashers] have been installed because we don’t want to delay the opening of Philip,” she said.

“But we also thought that we should make sure that the facility, when it is completed, is very secure. So we’re going to install Crimsafe doors on the facility as well, just to make sure that our residents are completely safe.”

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Project Independence issued a “call for help” to raise the $20,000 required to replace the four dishwashers and install the security screens on the development’s three houses.

Ms O’Hara said the local community’s generosity and support had been faith-restoring, with between $7000 and $8000 raised at the date of publishing.

“Yes, it’s a terrible thing. It’s just mind-blowing. But the positive side has been the fantastic support that we’ve received in response,” she said.

Once completed, the Phillip complex will be Project Independence’s third in Canberra. The others are in Harrison and Latham housing 10 residents each.

The complexes include 10 one-bedroom units split between two buildings, and a third building for common areas and accommodation for a live-in support worker.

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Residents of the specialised independent-living complexes pay a portion of their disability support pension to Project Independence for overhead costs and home equity. This offers a pathway to homeownership for the soon-to-be 30 total residents in the context of what Anglicare found to be a “relentless crisis” in the ACT’s private rental market.

The organisation’s 2023 Rental Affordability Snapshot found median rental costs in the ACT required 119 per cent of single disability support pension households’ incomes.

Ms O’Hara said more than 50 people were on a waitlist for Project Independence’s model of safe and affordable housing.

“It’s quite difficult when you only have 10 places every little while,” she said.

“It’s good for the 10 residents who will be living there, but as soon as you finish that one, you’re trying to get on to the next one as quickly as you can.”

Anyone with any information regarding this incident should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via theCrime Stoppers ACT website.Quote 7453177. Information can be provided anonymously.

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