Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

Public housing furore reflects true cost of tram

By Greg Cornwell - 14 July 2017 29

Broken piggy bank

Is Canberra in financial strife as a result of the light rail project?

Recent big-ticket cancellations like that of the planned convention centre, confusion about whether a new sports stadium will be built and then the Government’s initial refusal to fund SHOUT a trifling $110,000 raise concerns that the ‘progressive’ development of our city is stalling.

And it’s not just the fact that there have been adjustments to expenditure. Our Government is looking to increase its income via land sale profits by a smart – some might say sneaky – manoeuvre.

Changes to the Territory Plan some years ago altered the definition of ‘supportive’ housing – homes for aged or disabled residents – to include the broader term ‘social housing’, which meant that land previously set aside for the aged or disabled could now be used for general public housing.

The Government pays nothing for this land, which means it can move all public housing tenants, i.e. those in ‘social housing’, from prime land sites along Northbourne Avenue, and then sell it off to developers for a handsome profit.

Residents of suburbs in which this unexpected community land switch is occurring such as Holder and Chapman have protested at the lack of prior consultation, but the Government says the sites are not negotiable. This is a worrying development because the Government’s action could be repeated all over Canberra, again without appeal.

Perhaps as a sign of future expansion into the suburbs is the recently announced first ‘urban renewal precinct’, which will be developed at the minister’s discretion, along the Northbourne Avenue corridor. It incorporates far more than that valuable strip, taking in land from Flemington Road down to and including Civic, parts of Dickson, Braddon, Turner and the ANU.

How many moveable public facilities exist in this broad area is unknown but again, it affords our Government the opportunity to relocate its tenants to free land elsewhere and sell off in-demand central sites to developers.

The loss of community facility land from Canberra’s suburbs will include open recreation space, which whether formalised or not has long been accepted as such by local communities. For the relocated public housing tenants, access to shops probably not as convenient as the current Northbourne Avenue sites, however, the extra custom will be welcomed by the suburban shopkeepers.

The ACT Government would also see the potential of extra Labor votes in more marginal electorates too. On balance however, the suburbs lose. More pepper than salt methinks.

Flushed from its October 2016 election victory there is arrogance in the ACT Government which has the potential to fatally damage the Bush Capital image.

The Manuka Oval saga is not over, a stoush is ahead at the Italo-Australian site in Forrest, Yarralumla shows pretty pictures of the brickworks (interest declared) not the outside development and skyscraper-like proposals are floated for town centres.

Cutting back on expenditure, relocating public tenants, selling off prime real estate … How much is the tram really costing?

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
29 Responses to
Public housing furore reflects true cost of tram
1
bigred 8:27 am
14 Jul 17
#

No, it cannot be said Canberra is in financial strife because of the light rail project. It can be said, however, Canberra is potentially facing a finacial precipice due to the too narrow revenue base. A jurisdiction that relies on scorched earth taxation and levying of its residents, Commonwealth largesse or miserliness and land sales has no long term future according to my back of envelope calculations.

Greg cannot blame the light rail for the financial situation because the costs form a miniscule part of future budgets. It is the massive rises in health and education that are really hurting, especially considering the cross border free loading.

2
Chris Steel MLA 10:50 am
14 Jul 17
#

You forget Mr Cornwell, that you were part of a Liberal Government that cut around 1000 public housing dwellings from our stock without replacing them.

We reject that approach. The Labor Government’s long term policy of public housing renewal called the ‘Public housing asset management strategy 2012-2017’ has the goal of reducing concentrations of disadvantage through public housing redevelopment and aligning housing with changing social structures and tenant needs. We are not simply selling off stock as your Government did, but reinvesting in new stock.

This and previous strategies have had a consistent focus for years on reducing concentrations of disadvantage. So this is not the first time that tenants have been moved into more suitable, lower density and better quality accommodation.

Northbourne flats are only the latest part of the renewal, with Burnie Court in Lyons and others having also been redeveloped to provide better quality public housing for residents. Strathgordon Court in Lyons is another one on the Southside that is on the renewal list over the forward estimates.

3
dungfungus 11:40 am
14 Jul 17
#

Given that details of the deals between the government, unions and light rail contractors are commercial in confidence you cannot say that the light rail won’t be to blame for the apparent financial crisis we may be facing.

As I understand it, the operators of the light rail will receive an annual undisclosed sum to run it and the government will collect and keep all the fares. The difference between these two sums will be how much it costs us but it won’t be revealed unless an audit flushes it out.
Already we pay an annual subsidy to ACTION busses’ operations of over $100 million and given that the light rail will inherit most of it’s passengers from cessation of existing ACTION routes, the annual ACTION subsidy will increase substantially to fill the hole.
Couple that with the recurring costs of the bureaucracy that Transport Canberra is creating to integrate the trams so we Territorians can and will blame the tram for the financial black hole it will create but the government will continue to talk it up as the driver of urban regeneration that will increase the revenue stream form rates.

4
dungfungus 11:44 am
14 Jul 17
#

Chris Steel MLA said :

You forget Mr Cornwell, that you were part of a Liberal Government that cut around 1000 public housing dwellings from our stock without replacing them.

We reject that approach. The Labor Government’s long term policy of public housing renewal called the ‘Public housing asset management strategy 2012-2017’ has the goal of reducing concentrations of disadvantage through public housing redevelopment and aligning housing with changing social structures and tenant needs. We are not simply selling off stock as your Government did, but reinvesting in new stock.

This and previous strategies have had a consistent focus for years on reducing concentrations of disadvantage. So this is not the first time that tenants have been moved into more suitable, lower density and better quality accommodation.

Northbourne flats are only the latest part of the renewal, with Burnie Court in Lyons and others having also been redeveloped to provide better quality public housing for residents. Strathgordon Court in Lyons is another one on the Southside that is on the renewal list over the forward estimates.

Where were the 1,000 public housing dwellings you refer to located?

5
mcs 1:16 pm
14 Jul 17
#

dungfungus said :

As I understand it, the operators of the light rail will receive an annual undisclosed sum to run it and the government will collect and keep all the fares. The difference between these two sums will be how much it costs us but it won’t be revealed unless an audit flushes it out.

There is absolutely nothing ‘undisclosed’ about the availability payments – a 30 second google search soon finds the public contract summary that has that exact detail in it on page 14. While much of the project is shrouded in a cloud of minimal detail, this is not one part of it.

http://www.tccs.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/887686/Light-rail-Capital-Metro-Project-Contract-Summary.pdf

Farebox revenue is another story altogether, and the inherent subsidy in between. But a bit of research can find some important facts, such as this one – rather than the usual ‘cloak of invisibility’ assumption many make on here.

6
Garfield 1:18 pm
14 Jul 17
#

Chris Steel MLA said :

You forget Mr Cornwell, that you were part of a Liberal Government that cut around 1000 public housing dwellings from our stock without replacing them.

We reject that approach. The Labor Government’s long term policy of public housing renewal called the ‘Public housing asset management strategy 2012-2017’ has the goal of reducing concentrations of disadvantage through public housing redevelopment and aligning housing with changing social structures and tenant needs. We are not simply selling off stock as your Government did, but reinvesting in new stock.

This and previous strategies have had a consistent focus for years on reducing concentrations of disadvantage. So this is not the first time that tenants have been moved into more suitable, lower density and better quality accommodation.

Northbourne flats are only the latest part of the renewal, with Burnie Court in Lyons and others having also been redeveloped to provide better quality public housing for residents. Strathgordon Court in Lyons is another one on the Southside that is on the renewal list over the forward estimates.

Seriously? Your party has been in government for 16 years and you still want to complain about something the Liberals did when they were in government. Where there are problems with public housing now, they are your responsibility as there has been more than enough time to deal with any shortcomings that were inherited. I also read something by the Greens that Labor had not grown the public housing stock at all from 2001 to 2014. That really says to me that Labor didn’t disagree with the Liberals reduction at the time or they would have been working to reverse it as a priority once they were in government.

And how about information from a couple of years ago that the government was going to keep the majority of Northbourne tenants inside the 800m corridor? That’s fallen by the wayside and I reckon the cost of LR has to be a factor there. In order to maximise returns from a poor project, the party that “cares” about low income people is forcing hundreds to move away from their support structures and routines with probable negative impacts on their ability to maintain employment and mental health.

As I’ve said on other threads, the opportunity cost of Labor choosing to build LR instead of BRT is massive. Instead of the new convention centre being shelved, it could potentially be underway. Instead of the major hospital expansion being pushed back till after the next election, it could potentially be underway. The new stadium we supposedly need near the city centre could potentially be underway. Maybe with the cheaper BRT option, Labor wouldn’t need a questionable interpretation of what was supposed to be a technical amendment to take CFZ land to reduce the costs for providing replacement public housing.

7
JC 2:44 pm
14 Jul 17
#

dungfungus said :

As I understand it, the operators of the light rail will receive an annual undisclosed sum to run it and the government will collect and keep all the fares. The difference between these two sums will be how much it costs us but it won’t be revealed unless an audit flushes it out.

Undisclosed sum? Suggest you have a look page 14 of the document below.

http://www.tccs.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/887686/Light-rail-Capital-Metro-Project-Contract-Summary.pdf

8
JC 2:47 pm
14 Jul 17
#

dungfungus said :

Where were the 1,000 public housing dwellings you refer to located?

Baringa gardens demolition would have been around this time. There would be a fair amount of the 1000.

9
Queanbeyanite 8:49 pm
14 Jul 17
#

If the local council would stop hosing other peoples money around, cut red tape and utility prices to encourage more value adding private enterprise, the poor could get jobs that suited their abilities and inclination, afford to rent something close to where they work and perhaps save up enough for a deposit to bhy their own place. But policing plastic bags is much too important.

10
dungfungus 10:00 am
15 Jul 17
#

JC said :

dungfungus said :

Where were the 1,000 public housing dwellings you refer to located?

Baringa gardens demolition would have been around this time. There would be a fair amount of the 1000.

Actually, 410 units made up Baringa Gardens and it was vacated progressively before the social expiriment disaster was demolished so there must have been available public accommodation available elsewhere in Canberra at the time.
https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-10450-25484274/canberra-times-act

Snapshot of Baringa Gardens at Melba from Hansard, 15th October 1991:

“A typical social mix. Poor public and self image Isolation. High density. Low level of privacy. Poor traffic planning. Unenforced lease conditions. Lack of maintenance. Vandalism. Dogs. Physical: Inadequate heating/ ventilation. Condensation. Water penetration. Mould. Dampness. Poor orientation. Inadequate landscaping.
Prototype Upgrade: 377 of the 795 residents (47.5%0) living at Melba one year previously. Low income, high unemployment. Flats used for priority and emergency housing – short stays.”

It had to be demolished on building related health issues alone; just like Labor’s decision to demolish over 1,000 privately owned Mr Fluffy houses.

11
dungfungus 10:12 am
15 Jul 17
#

JC said :

dungfungus said :

As I understand it, the operators of the light rail will receive an annual undisclosed sum to run it and the government will collect and keep all the fares. The difference between these two sums will be how much it costs us but it won’t be revealed unless an audit flushes it out.

Undisclosed sum? Suggest you have a look page 14 of the document below.

http://www.tccs.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/887686/Light-rail-Capital-Metro-Project-Contract-Summary.pdf

Those figures (Availability Payments) are only estimates and are subject to the following:

“This section sets out the expected availability payment profile as at the time of this summary. The project’s availability payment profile may change over time for reasons which include:
– The Territory ‘abating’ payments for Canberra Metro’s failure to meet service quality and on time running standards;
– The occurrence of Territory-retained risk events which are financed through the availability payment regime; and
– Periodic debt refinancing throughout the term of the contract.”

Already the ACT Audior General has uncovered seriously flawed financial projections in this project and the whole deal has an enormous “blue sky” factor.

Accordingly, I stand by my statement that the sum to be actually paid is, at this stage, undisclosed.

12
dungfungus 10:15 am
15 Jul 17
#

mcs said :

dungfungus said :

As I understand it, the operators of the light rail will receive an annual undisclosed sum to run it and the government will collect and keep all the fares. The difference between these two sums will be how much it costs us but it won’t be revealed unless an audit flushes it out.

There is absolutely nothing ‘undisclosed’ about the availability payments – a 30 second google search soon finds the public contract summary that has that exact detail in it on page 14. While much of the project is shrouded in a cloud of minimal detail, this is not one part of it.

http://www.tccs.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/887686/Light-rail-Capital-Metro-Project-Contract-Summary.pdf

Farebox revenue is another story altogether, and the inherent subsidy in between. But a bit of research can find some important facts, such as this one – rather than the usual ‘cloak of invisibility’ assumption many make on here.

You should also read the caveats and qualifications about the “availability payments” on page 14.

13
dungfungus 10:32 am
15 Jul 17
#

JC said :

dungfungus said :

Where were the 1,000 public housing dwellings you refer to located?

Baringa gardens demolition would have been around this time. There would be a fair amount of the 1000.

dungfungus said :

Chris Steel MLA said :

You forget Mr Cornwell, that you were part of a Liberal Government that cut around 1000 public housing dwellings from our stock without replacing them.

We reject that approach. The Labor Government’s long term policy of public housing renewal called the ‘Public housing asset management strategy 2012-2017’ has the goal of reducing concentrations of disadvantage through public housing redevelopment and aligning housing with changing social structures and tenant needs. We are not simply selling off stock as your Government did, but reinvesting in new stock.

This and previous strategies have had a consistent focus for years on reducing concentrations of disadvantage. So this is not the first time that tenants have been moved into more suitable, lower density and better quality accommodation.

Northbourne flats are only the latest part of the renewal, with Burnie Court in Lyons and others having also been redeveloped to provide better quality public housing for residents. Strathgordon Court in Lyons is another one on the Southside that is on the renewal list over the forward estimates.

Where were the 1,000 public housing dwellings you refer to located?

Here’s a leg up for you (thanks to JC) in you quest to identify the “1,000 public housing dwellings”.

There were 410 units at Baringa Gardens, Melba demolished in the early 1990’s – I am insure which government was in power then but let’s assume it was the Liberals.

Only 590 to go now!

I am not sure of the history of the “ABC” flats in Braddon which have recently been demolished. Let’s see, Labor have been continuously in power for the last 16 years so it’s hard to pin this one on the Liberals.

14
KentFitch 5:17 pm
15 Jul 17
#

JC said :

dungfungus said :

Where were the 1,000 public housing dwellings you refer to located?

Baringa gardens demolition would have been around this time. There would be a fair amount of the 1000.

The decision to demolish Melba Flats (aka Baringa Gardens) was taken by the Follett Government in 1989, on the advice of a report to the ACT Housing Trust : http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/122284952/12990473

For changes in public housing tenancy numbers between 2011 and 2015, see ACT Audit Office report “‘Maintenance of Public Housing’” from last year: https://goo.gl/Af5w39

Table 1-1 on page 13 shows that there were over 11% more public housing tenancies in 2011/12 than in 2014/15, despite the population being almost 5% lower in 2011/12.

The number of public housing tenancies in 2014/15 was just 10,611.

In 1995 when Liberal Kate Carnell became Chief Minister, there were around 13,717 households living in public housing: http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/133921015
In 1998, an audit report noted 12,200 dwellings in the public housing stock: http://www.audit.act.gov.au/auditreports/reports1998/pa9813.pdf . In June 2003, this had fallen to 11,465: http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/ni/2004-284/20040813-15766/pdf/2004-284.pdf
Canberra’s population has grown almost 24% since 2003, yet the public housing stock has fallen dramatically.

Both parties will spin these figures to suit themselves (policy changes on who is eligible maybe, but certainly not a more affordable private housing market) but meanwhile, on the streets: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-03/canberra-homelessness-service-blames-public-housing-closures/8672610
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/housing-stress-dire-as-elderly-canberra-women-resort-to-sleeping-in-cars-20170117-gtt156.html

I hope any residential development on West Basin results from an international competition to design a show-case, low-rise, public housing project of excellence. This town already has more than enough high-rise luxury enclaves for rich people and expensive flats with a “second bedroom” without a windows ( http://mayfairapartments.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2B.pdf ). Those amongst us who’ve had a spell of bad luck, fewer opportunities or made a poor decision will benefit more from a central location and the high visibility of such a project would be good for everyone.

15
Rover 10:02 pm
15 Jul 17
#

I don’t understand why the ACT Government refuses to tell us where they plan on putting new public housing.

If it’s true salt-and-peppering, surely they could say “Four three-bedroom detached houses in X street in X suburb”.

But if, as we all suspect, the real answer is “30 two-bedroom townhouses in X street in X suburb”, it’s not salt-and-pepper – it’s just overloading.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au

Search across the site