Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

Public housing stigma continues

By John Hargreaves - 20 May 2015 66

house-stock-roof

I was sorely disappointed to read the front page of The Canberra Times yesterday morning in which the people of Gungahlin were objecting to the presence of salt and peppered public housing in their suburbs.

My concern stemmed from a series of experiences and I so wish that they rethink their objections and become a welcoming society for those who are not as well off as they obviously are. The NIMBY acronym surely fits here.

The Gungahlin residents are suggesting that all public housing tenants are dangerous, will have a “negative impact” on their family friendly neighbourhoods, bring about “potential slums” replacing open space used for recreation by local families.

The Gold Creek parents and citizens association representatives suggested that the placement of the homes could bring drug use and crime to the area.

These people are sorely misinformed about the actual nature of public housing tenants.

Public housing tenants number over 12,000. About 8,000 live in free-standing homes and the others live in a combination of high rise and townhouse developments.

Of these tenants, there are about 200 or so challenging tenants. The percentage is very low. There are more challenging individuals in the private housing sector than in the public housing sector.

Most public housing tenants are beautiful people who live their lives in our suburbs and disturb no-one, bring up their kids like the rest of us, shopping in our shopping centres and sending their kids to our schools, just like the rest of us.

They take care of their homes – not houses – with pride and care. They often buy them when they can afford to do so.

In my experience criminality is not restricted to the public housing tenancies, but spread all over Canberra.

The policy of salt and peppering is to give tenants the opportunity to be part of a vibrant community, to be part of a success story and to be just as ordinary as the rest of us.

This policy is aimed at removing the “ghettos” that people imagine are the flats in Belconnen, the flats in Civic, the flats in Red Hill. It is fact that when the flats in Kingston were removed and the tenants moved to the suburbs in the salt and pepper policy, all of them had a renewal of their lives.

As much as despair and hopelessness have an accompanying drug use and criminality, so does hope, acceptance, assistance and good example have their infectiousness.

I saw in that article an upper class attitude which made me cringe. I saw the inward looking snobbery which is not the Canberra I brought my family into.

The assumption that ACT Housing will build more concentrations of public housing is erroneous as well. Certainly, assisted accommodation for those with a disability is a possibility but salt and pepper means that the old way of building streets and streets of houses is long gone.

My attitude comes from two experiences. The first is a former public housing tenant. I lived in a public housing home until I was able to buy it from the government. I lived in a street full of public houses and sent my kids to a public school in Holt. Our street was surrounded by private dwellings and there was never any stigma attached to my tenancy as there seems to be in the Gungahlin people’s attitudes today.

If it was not for that opportunity, I would have been sentenced to struggle for a whole lot longer than I was. If it was not for that opportunity, I could never have been able to get that leg up which we all hope for.

My other experience was as Minister for Housing for about five years. In that time I saw changes in not only the policy but also the demographic of the public housing tenancies. The more we salt and peppered into the suburbs, the less we had challenging tenants to deal with. The more we destroyed to concentrations of challenging tenancies which fed off each other and created dwellings of despair, the more we gave a new life and hope to those in our community who needed our help the most.

I met hundreds of tenants in my tenure as Minister and I met many different types of tenants. For the absolute majority of these cases, I would be proud to have them living next door. Indeed when I rented in at least two suburbs, I had neighbours in private accommodation whose lifestyle was suss at best and illegal at worst.

The people of Gungahlin should realise that public housing tenants are real people with the same aspirations as they have, the same hopes for their kids that they have but they don’t have the same means to achieve those hopes as they do.

I was ashamed and appalled at the sentiments in the Times today. I had thought and hoped that the stigma of public housing was dying, but alas not so.

When will we realise that public housing is an expression by the community that we have an obligation to help where we can, to share in our beautiful city and not condemn people to a stigma which is undeserved and actually nasty.

Elitism and snobbery have no place in our society. Compassion and willingness to embrace are the attributes I want for my Canberra.

What’s Your opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
66 Responses to
Public housing stigma continues
Filter
Showing only Website comments
Order
Newest to Oldest
Oldest to Newst
JC 6:32 pm 25 May 15

Holden Caulfield said :

The part of Nicholls to the south of Gungahlin Pond, accessed from Gundaroo Drive, is the part with a majority of smaller, more affordable blocks. I’m not sure if that part also had public housing from the start. It was developed quite a bit later than the majority of Nicholls.

That part was developed circa 1998/1999/2000, I nearly brought a block in this part, went to Dunlop instead.

dungfungus 6:22 pm 25 May 15

JC said :

miz said :

It used to be that public housing was mostly for working people who didn’t earn much – your salt of the earth types who as John mentioned could have an opportunity to buy their home. Unfortunately since Howard public housing has become so ‘targeted’ that the only people eligible usually have complex/entrenched problems which creates the stigma. We are lucky that such tenants are ‘salt and peppered’ in Canberra but the stigma remains because we have lots of interstate people in Canberra. And it’s now difficult to buy your Canberra public housing property as the schemes are quite disadvantageous when you look into them so most are simply ‘stuck’.

I am not fan of Howard of the Liebral party, but sorry this post couldn’t be further from the truth.

Firstly public housing policy is 100% a state/territory issue, so not sure what Howard has to do with it.

Secondly public housing has ALWAYS had a level is stigma associated with it (remember Baringa Gardens in Melba?), though yes in the past the eligibility was a lot less strict. But frankly that cannot be a bad thing. Public housing should be for those that cannot otherwise afford rental on the private market. It is not a choice thing.

PS I grew up in a public housing property, single mum and all. Though we took better care of our place compared to some of our privately owned neighbours. Pity the people that live there now don’t have the same care. 1100m2 block that is nothing but long grass and weeds, as opposed to the kids paradise it was when we lived there. Back yard cricket, fotty and all.

Baringa Gardens at Melba was charming compared to Burnie Court at Lyons and Fraser Court at Kingston.
At one stage Tom Uren lived at Fraser Court but after he moved on it moved downhill rapidly.
I had work related activities that necessitated regular visits to all public housing estates in Canberra and I witnessed their decline into welfare dependant ghettos first hand.
In the UK, some of the occupants of public housing estates are called CHAVS (Council House And Violent). It is exactly the same here.
ACT Housing has in the past (maybe still does) sent public housing tenants that were no longer tolerated by them to agents managing private rental homes/flats with enough money to cover the first months rental and bond and commission for the agent. You can expect what the outcome was for the unsuspecting property owners.

JC 5:09 pm 25 May 15

miz said :

It used to be that public housing was mostly for working people who didn’t earn much – your salt of the earth types who as John mentioned could have an opportunity to buy their home. Unfortunately since Howard public housing has become so ‘targeted’ that the only people eligible usually have complex/entrenched problems which creates the stigma. We are lucky that such tenants are ‘salt and peppered’ in Canberra but the stigma remains because we have lots of interstate people in Canberra. And it’s now difficult to buy your Canberra public housing property as the schemes are quite disadvantageous when you look into them so most are simply ‘stuck’.

I am not fan of Howard of the Liebral party, but sorry this post couldn’t be further from the truth.

Firstly public housing policy is 100% a state/territory issue, so not sure what Howard has to do with it.

Secondly public housing has ALWAYS had a level is stigma associated with it (remember Baringa Gardens in Melba?), though yes in the past the eligibility was a lot less strict. But frankly that cannot be a bad thing. Public housing should be for those that cannot otherwise afford rental on the private market. It is not a choice thing.

PS I grew up in a public housing property, single mum and all. Though we took better care of our place compared to some of our privately owned neighbors. Pity the people that live there now don’t have the same care. 1100m2 block that is nothing but long grass and weeds, as opposed to the kids paradise it was when we lived there. Back yard cricket, fotty and all.

Holden Caulfield 3:50 pm 25 May 15

As noted there is or was heaps of public housing in Canberra’s inner suburbs. All the now sought after “Tocumwal” houses in O’Connor were govvies.

O’Connor, Turner, Ainslie, Reid, Yarralumla, Griffith, Kingston, all of these suburbs, now considered quite prestigious, were littered with govvies. The part of O’Connor on the Lyneham side of Macarthur Ave had more public housing than the City side of O’Connor and was often considered inferior. That seems crazy now.

Most of those govvies have since been sold off by buyers willing to renovate or demolish and take advantage of the more central locations.

As for Nicholls, it was marketed as the prestige suburb of Gungahlin back in the early 90s. The first area developed was to the north of Gungahlin Pond (off Lexcen Ave/Anne Clarke Ave) and has decent sized blocks. It also had public housing from the start.

Harcourt Hill was originally only considered to be the relatively small pocket to the north of Curran Drive, but the name seemed to resonate with the market and the developers used it for the stretch to the south serviced by Temperley Ave.

The part of Nicholls to the south of Gungahlin Pond, accessed from Gundaroo Drive, is the part with a majority of smaller, more affordable blocks. I’m not sure if that part also had public housing from the start. It was developed quite a bit later than the majority of Nicholls.

dungfungus 3:22 pm 25 May 15

miz said :

It used to be that public housing was mostly for working people who didn’t earn much – your salt of the earth types who as John mentioned could have an opportunity to buy their home. Unfortunately since Howard public housing has become so ‘targeted’ that the only people eligible usually have complex/entrenched problems which creates the stigma. We are lucky that such tenants are ‘salt and peppered’ in Canberra but the stigma remains because we have lots of interstate people in Canberra. And it’s now difficult to buy your Canberra public housing property as the schemes are quite disadvantageous when you look into them so most are simply ‘stuck’.

Yes, that evil John Howard also took their guns & jerbs too.

miz 12:56 pm 25 May 15

It used to be that public housing was mostly for working people who didn’t earn much – your salt of the earth types who as John mentioned could have an opportunity to buy their home. Unfortunately since Howard public housing has become so ‘targeted’ that the only people eligible usually have complex/entrenched problems which creates the stigma. We are lucky that such tenants are ‘salt and peppered’ in Canberra but the stigma remains because we have lots of interstate people in Canberra. And it’s now difficult to buy your Canberra public housing property as the schemes are quite disadvantageous when you look into them so most are simply ‘stuck’.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2018 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site