26 October 2020

Public housing to be built on Mr Fluffy blocks

| Ian Bushnell
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Mr Fluffy block

A total of 31 Mr Fluffy blocks will now be turned over to public housing. Photo: File.

Public housing will be built on former Mr Fluffy blocks across the ACT after Housing ACT snapped them up with stimulus funding announced in August.

The Community Services Directorate has confirmed that Housing ACT is in the process of purchasing 31 remediated blocks from the Asbestos Response Taskforce (ART) as well as vacant available land from the Suburban Land Agency.

In the August budget update, the government announced an extra $61 million to boost public housing and stimulate the ACT economy, of which $32 million has gone to land purchases.

The Directorate expects the purchase of the 31 blocks from the ART will be completed by the end of 2020, with construction to commence in 2021-22.

As many Class C adaptable homes as possible will be built on these sites for people with disabilities and the aged, the Directorate said.

”Where block size and site constraints permit, Housing ACT will build homes that support tenants living with a disability, tenants with larger families and tenants choosing to age in place,” it said.

It is not yet known how the blocks will be developed or whether they will be split to maximise the number of dwellings.

Unless there is a change of rules, Mr Fluffy blocks surrendered under the Buyback Program must be 700 square metres or greater to allow dual-occupancy development under a special provision (normally, dual-occupancy blocks need to be at least 800 square metres or greater).

The directorate did not say where the blocks were except that they were all over Canberra to ensure that public housing is available in as many suburbs as possible.

C class adaptable units

C class adaptable units under construction in Dickson.

It said that when the types of development and number of dwellings were known, Housing ACT would undertake community engagement appropriate to the proposed development, including notification of the proposal through letters to surrounding residents and/or community information sessions.

Depending on the type of development, Housing ACT may face neighbourhood opposition to new public housing developments, particularly if they are multi-dwelling or multi-storey proposals.

Previous proposals for vacant community-zoned land in Chapman and Holder have provoked community opposition.

The blocks will be added to the mix of sites identified for the $1 billion, 10-year, Growing and Renewing Public Housing program, which will refresh 1,000 public housing properties and add 260 dwellings to the overall number of homes.

Housing is a key negotiating point for Labor and the Greens in their talks to thrash out a new Parliamentary Agreement that will reflect the Greens’ new clout in the Assembly.

The Greens want to see a further 1000 energy-efficient social and public housing dwellings built.

Under the $450 million plan they took to the election, $200 million would be spent on 600 new ‘climate-ready’ rental properties for people in need, while an additional $200 million would go to a further 400 properties for social housing, as well as $50 million for homelessness services and Indigenous housing.

While the Greens are unlikely to get all of their requests, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has said the gulf between the parties over the four-year forward estimates was not that great.

Whatever the final outcome, housing construction will play a key role in the ACT’s economic recovery, including the public housing to be built on the Mr Fluffy sites.

Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos insulation is known to have contaminated more than 1000 homes, with most demolished and the blocks acquired by the government.

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Drip feeding the market land so expensive no one will buy it –> more people unable to get into homes –> government “takes the opportunity” to deliver additional social housing.

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