12 September 2019

Public and community housing moves to the outer suburbs

| Ian Bushnell
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr launched the ACT Government’s Housing Strategy last year. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Only 50 public or community homes are slated for the inner city in new housing targets for 2019-2020 published by the ACT Government last week, and 40 of them relate to the Common Ground project in Dickson.

The City Renewal Authority and Suburban Land Agency targets detail by suburb the number of affordable, public and community housing sites included in the Indicative Land Release program issued with the Budget in June.

For 2019-20, the government has set a target of releasing 628 dedicated public, community and affordable homes, made up of 80 new public housing properties, 60 new community housing properties and 488 individual properties for affordable home purchase to eligible low-income households.

The government has pledged $100 million in new investment to grow the public and community housing sector, as well as committing 15 per cent of dwelling sites to public, community and affordable housing. It says it will also provide seed funding for innovations in housing management, design and ownership.

Section 63 in the City Hill area will only have five public and five community housing sites in a release of 350, which also includes 60 affordable homes, boosting the proportion of social and affordable housing within the site to 20 per cent.

The ACT’s second Common Ground project, providing low-cost, supported housing, is proposed for Section 72 Block 25 in Dickson, after the success of the first venture in Gungahlin.

Nearly 1300 public housing sites have gone from the Inner North, South and the city as part of the government’s urban renewal program, with many residents dispersed to new sites in the outer suburbs.

In Belconnen, of 550 dwellings on Block 17 Section 152, only 15 will be public (10) and community homes (5), with 87 classed as affordable – a total proportion of 18.5 per cent.

The same proportion is set for Phillip’s Block 2 Section 180, where 480 dwellings are planned. Ten are public housing, five are community homes and 74 have been classified as affordable.

The targets for dwellings in new suburbs include releases in Gungahlin, Taylor, Strathnairn and the Molonglo Valley.

Of 800 dwellings slated for Taylor, only five will be public and five will be community homes. In Strathnairn in West Belconnen, there will be 10 of each in a release of 300, while in Whitlam in Molonglo, out of 600 houses there will be 20 public and 10 community homes.

Coombs in Molonglo won’t have any public or community homes in the new releases, but will have the highest proportion of affordable homes with 96 out of a total release of 326.

Affordable homes number 80 in Gungahlin out of a total of 474, with six in Taylor, 60 in Whitlam and 25 in Strathnairn.


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Then we have the ‘salt and pepper’ strategy…. No matter how often one complains to the landlord (ACT Government), of the behaviour of their tenants, the landlord (ACT Government) ignores the complaints and NOTHING is done. Apart from the body corporate (rate payers) having to expend money to install CCTV cameras INSIDE the complex.

The government certainly contributes to the perception that public housing is undesirable.

Coombs has several public housing complexes while Wright did not initially have any.

When there is such a discrepancy in public housing between two new suburbs that are adjacent to each other it is not surprising that people gain the impression that public tenants were being dumped in Coombs while Wright was intended to be more “up-market”.

Either that or the people who designed the suburbs are monumentally incompetent and should be reassigned to a role more suited to their skill level.

Yes, now there is a public housing complex planned for Wright, but this was added in after the public observations about the discrepancy. And yes I presume both suburbs have individual public housing properties scattered across them in a true “salt and pepper” approach, unlike the “sauce bottle glob” approach of public housing complexes.

Mike of Canberra5:34 pm 14 Sep 19

Discussions about public housing invariably attract “bleeding heart liberals”, who believe it should be anywhere and everywhere, and stringent critics, who’d prefer to see it nowhere and certainly nowhere near them. Let’s lay day down a few rational thoughts and, in so doing, identify the real culprit which, as so often, is the ACT Government.

I grew up in public housing as did my wife. This was at a time when public housing was available to all, with a reasonable expectation that many tenants at some stage would buy their homes. In these times, there was nothing frightening or threatening about the public housing demographic. Additionally, being poor was not a matter of choice but rather resulted from the enforced absence of opportunity.

What’s happened since? Welfare, that’s what. Welfare was intended as a buffer for the down times and a hand up to seek better times. Unfortunately, from around the 1970s, welfare recipients began to be treated as the “golden child”, seemingly incapable of any wrong, whatever the crime, domestic abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction figures told us. You could say this has been the result of circumstance, but circumstances were made to be dealt with.

This situation has flowed through to public (now welfare) housing. Once the gold standard, it has degenerated into the blot nobody wants on their landscape. These days, in fact, if there’s public housing near you, your property is likely to be valued somewhat lower than its true worth. Why? In the ACT it’s because our long-term government treats public housing tenants as saints, appearing not to place any noticeable obligations on them and allowing their homes to become slums. As with all things, this happens when government moves from administrative pragmatism to ideology. Move this tired, hubristic government on!

I am a Rabbit™8:12 am 15 Sep 19

Are you actually complaining that public housing is not occupied by the middle class anymore? I think if you actually bothered to look up the conditions surrounding occupying public housing between the 70’s and now, you would find that the conditions are much stricter nowadays. The problem you have is that people on the low end socioeconomic end aren’t hidden away where you can’t see them.

I did like the comment about the whole “being poor is a matter of choice” which you justified by growing up in public housing. Honestly, the only aspect that proves is that you were a Baby Boomer who had housing handed to you on a silver platter, with later generations unnecessarily paying down debt incurred by that absurd 1970’s “public housing” policy.

PS: The figures for crime, domestic abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction have never been lower, including that of welfare dependency.

Mike of Canberra10:36 am 15 Sep 19

So I’m “a baby boomer who had housing handed to you on a platter”. As you know nothing about me, you shouldn’t make assumptions. I grew up in a poor working class family and have had to strive and raise the funding for everything I’ve ever had or achieved, including a university education. The public housing in which I grew up was also subject to a lengthy waiting list, during which time my family rented privately, all on a very low income. So in fact, far from people on the low end of the socioeconomic scale being hidden from sight in those days, we were such people and we lived in plain sight. I’ve had nothing handed to me on a platter. Perhaps you should keep your callow assumptions to yourself.

And frankly, I don’t care about your precious statistics about abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction and welfare dependency never having been lower. The fact is that these situations still exist and there is a fair concentration of them around public housing. This doesn’t make assumptions about every public housing tenant, just states fact about the concentration of problems within areas of public housing. And by the way, has it occurred to you that the reduction of the social problems has gone hand in hand with welfare reduction, thus proving my point?

innernorthcarol5:11 pm 19 Sep 19

My experience is that living near public housing does not lower property values. I live in Ainslie. Across the street is a public housing dwelling; diagonally across from me is a public housing complex with low level garden apartments. One block east there are two public housing dwellings in a cul du sac and another two public housing dwellings in a cul du sac one block to the west. My rates have always steadily increased (even before the switch to land tax) and I have live in this location for nearly 24 years. When the house two doors down went to auction a few years ago, it broke the $1 million mark for our neighbourhood–and it too is across the street from that public housing dwelling I mentioned. Noise or unruly behaviour? Nope. Untidy or poorly maintained yards? Nope. My neighbours’ garden puts mine to shame. I think the assertion that public housing brings down property values is unsubstantiated.

Nothing wrong with public housing in the outer suburbs. It just has to be matched with support services, community facilities, entertainment options and public transport.

Unfortunately Mr Barr has been removing these much needed things from the outer burbs. What an un Labor leader Mr Barr is.

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