A controversial development application for the construction of a social housing complex in Ainslie for women has been approved.
The YWCA Canberra project in Rutherford Crescent will deliver 10 single-storey units to provide homes for older women and women escaping domestic and family violence.
But the proposal attracted opposition from nearby residents who were concerned that traffic changes would make the street less safe, would impact Bill Pye Park next door, and that the development was not in keeping with the low-density character of the neighbourhood.
Throughout the planning process, they complained about a lack of consultation.
The YWCA was forced to refute their claims, saying there was never any intention to encroach on the park from the 1828 square-metre community facilities zoned site that the organisation had leased from before self-government. The YWCA currently has a 99-year lease on the site to deliver childcare and community activities.
CEO Frances Crimmins said at the time that the organisation had been honest and transparent with residents, scaling back the proposal from 16 units and two-storeys after consultation.
There were also claims about the value of the land and how the proposal would be funded.
Ms Crimmins responded that the land and building was last valued at $500,000 and YWCA Canberra would be funding the construction of the proposal.
YCWA Canberra lodged its DA last November saying the project vision is to provide housing for older and younger women, some with children, who may have experienced domestic violence, and the site is conveniently located near public transport, local shops and the public park and playground.
The project consists of eight studio-size dwellings and two two-bedroom units – all accessible and adaptable, 10 car parking spaces and landscaping.
Ms Crimmins said that while the project made a small contribution to closing the shortfall of 3000 social housing dwellings in Canberra, the difference it will make to the lives of those women who will be future tenants will be enormous.
“As a long-term provider of community housing in Canberra and a local charity with expertise working with women and their families, we are thrilled to be granted approval to proceed with this exciting project and find new ways to respond to housing crisis among women,” she said.
Ms Crimmins said that in December 2020, there were more than 1000 women in Canberra registered with Specialist Housing Services and most of them were homeless or in housing crisis due to domestic or family violence.
“We currently have women in our housing services who are in their 80s and 90s. No one wants to see anyone’s grandmother in such dire circumstances,” she said.
“We know that Canberra is a generous city and that this project has a strong level of understanding and support among the community.”
Ms Crimmins said it was an excellent opportunity for the organisation to use a block of land it owns for the greater public good.
“We look forward to working with the community in the months ahead as our build progresses.”
The approval came with conditions including scaling back building elements on the northern frontage, widening the driveway verge crossing, and updating the landscape plan.