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The community facility zone swindle

By Mark Parton MLA - 9 May 2017 28

ACT Territory Plan

Much of the community confusion around the use of Community Facility Zoned (CFZ) land for general public housing can be traced back to the week before Christmas in 2015. On the 15th of December 2015 the ACT Government quietly pushed through a technical amendment to the Territory Plan which, according to the Chief Minister and his Deputy, now gives them the right to build general public housing on land set aside for community facilities. That includes the planned developments at Wright, Chapman, Holder and Mawson. And, it could well at some stage include 40 or 50 public housing units on the green space over the road from your place or the park where you currently walk the dog.

The Government’s interpretation of the amended Act is not correct. Let me explain why.

Up until 2005, the Territory Plan didn’t allow the construction of anything that could be described as ‘residential’ on any community land. This was land set aside for parks, sporting facilities, places of worship, health facilities and open space. That changed in 2005 when a substantial amendment to the Territory Plan allowed for aged care facilities and ‘supportive housing’ to be built on these zones.

So what is supportive housing?

The Government’s own definition and the one widely accepted in the housing space is “the use of land for residential accommodation for persons in need of support which is managed by a Territory approved organisation that provides a range of support services such as counselling, domestic assistance and personal care for residents as required.”

When there was a big kerfuffle over a proposed public housing development in Nicholls a couple of years ago, MLA Megan Fitzharris said these words in the Legislative Assembly.

“Let me assure the Nicholls community that this proposed development is for supportive housing for elderly people and for people with a disability”

Ms Fitzharris was well aware that planning laws dictated that general public housing could not be built on a Community Facility Zone.

As we were all winding down for the year in 2015, when some were already off at the coast and others were doing their Christmas shopping, the government did something that could only be described as conniving and underhanded. While we were all looking the other way, they quietly pushed through a technical amendment to the Territory Plan. The only inkling that anyone got of this occurring was a small newspaper notice hidden away in the Canberra Times. The technical amendment documents suggest that this was a ‘variation to clarify the language in the territory plan that does not change the substance of the plan’

This technical amendment was the inclusion of ‘social housing’ under some common terminology for supportive housing. That amendment makes no sense. Supportive housing is one category of the larger subset known as social housing and to include the term ‘social housing’ alongside ‘supportive housing’ is absurd.

A technical amendment by its very nature is not supposed to change the substance of the plan, but this amendment has at least in the eyes of the Chief Minister and Housing Minister.

The documents supporting the amendment state “Any form of social housing, in order to be considered ‘supportive housing’ under the Territory Plan definition must be able to comply with requirements of the (original) definition of ‘supportive housing.’ On that basis, the government has no right to interpret the amended territory plan as they have.

In question time last month, I asked the Minister to give us a detailed definition of supportive housing and whether or not the definition had changed. She assured me that the definition had not changed and that ‘supportive housing’ is ‘supported housing’ whereby a person lives in a house and his supported by someone, in this case the government.

We are dealing with a government which is happy to change the rules to suit itself and which has no real intention of consulting with the community.

Canberrans should now have their eyes wide open to the possibility that the Government could rezone land in any location at any time to build whatever it likes, be it public housing, selling the land off for high rise developments inconsistent with surroundings or anything it wants, without community consultation.

The Government might just be sneakily changing the rules right now for its next set of unfair developments.

Caption: top, screen shot from the ACT Territory Plan.

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28 Responses to
The community facility zone swindle
bj_ACT 12:18 pm 10 May 17

Rover said :

Andrew Barr and government officials are being allowed to get away with the spurious and offensive claim that anyone who questions their plans is vilifying public housing tenants.

In Narrabundah, 23 per cent of dwellings are public housing. They are mainly freestanding houses or duplexes, or apartments within majority privately-owned complexes. The only reason I know which apartments in my complex are public housing is from seeing the ownership lists during a brief stint on the body corporate.

This is salt-and-peppering at its best.

However, the Government now plans to use land on Jerrabomberra Ave – located between the vets and the motel, separated by a licensed club – for two complexes of up to 30 two-bedroom townhouses exclusively for public housing.

This is not salt-and-peppering. This is rebuilding problems, in a suburb that for historical reasons already has a disproportionate amount of public housing.

When Housing ACT officials fronted an Inner South Community Council meeting a couple of months ago, they too played the “you are vilifying all public tenants” card. They completely ignored that the angriest voices in the room came from public housing tenants who pointed out that Housing ACT was not able to properly maintain its existing properties, nor protect its good tenants from the minority of bad tenants.

Andrew Barr wants to talk up his credentials as a public housing tenant as a child. I’ll be more impressed if he proposes a 30-unit public housing development near his adult home.

Where is your “In Narrabundah, 23 per cent of dwellings are public housing” sourced from? I think these kind of numbers were once claimed by Narrabundah Community Council, but it would be good to know if there are some other sources to back it up.

According to the last ABS CENSUS only 6% of residents in Narrabundah lived in Public housing which is in the same ballpark as Kambah, Charnwood, Florey & Rivett. But maybe the CENSUS data is skewed somehow?

chewy14 10:14 am 10 May 17

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

Mark Parton MLA said :

chewy14 said :

No, this is a complete misreading of the change to suit the argument.
Supportive housing has always allowed for this type of development, the technical amendment simply clarified explicitly this definition to stop this exact type of misunderstanding. There is no difference between an old age home and social housing except for the community’s perception of the tenants.

The issue you really have is with the change made in 2005 to allow any form of residential development on this type of land use. That should be the question asked, do we want any form of residential developments on this land use type.

My personal opinion would be no, we don’t, but it’s a bit late and a bit convenient that this is only an issue now some local NIMBY’s might have to deal with it..

Perhaps Mark can agitate to change the definition back to disallowing residential uses altogether?

I think it’s entirely appropriate to allow an aged care facility or genuine supportive housing on a CFZ. I don’t think its appropriate to build ‘run of the mill’ public housing on those zones. What we’re seeing here is a government that believes it has a mandate to build whatever it wants, wherever it wants to build it irrespective of what the planning laws say.

Why do you believe an aged care facility is fundamentally different than the type of social housing that is proposed to be constructed on these sites?

The buildings can/will be similar, the uses are similar, as far as I can see the only difference is the tenants. And that isn’t a reason.

Particularly on the sites chosen where residents have not favoured the developments for reasons of access to services, loss of greenspace, proximity to bushfire zones. etc. All of which would be equally affected by an aged care facility or similar.

I think the main issue is the allowance of any residential development on CFZ.

Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t believe the ACT government is in the aged care business and why would they want be anyway? I mean, they have enough difficulty with running a public hospital.

Aren’t all Canberra’s aged care facilities owned and run by religious, ethnic or health funds etc? And the funding is largely federal.

It’s a non-issue in the context of this thread.

A

The issue is what the territory plan does and does not allow, so the discussion of residential aged care on CFZ is directly relevant.

As the article explains, the “support” simply needs to be managed by a territory approved organisation so ownership or the running of them is the part that isn’t relevant.

JC 9:23 am 10 May 17

DamianC said :

Community land needs a better system of protection in Canberra including the parks. Canberra is actually a little light on parks contrary to what might be the popular perception. Get out Google Maps and compare Canberra with cities around the world and you’ll find we don’t even compare well to under pressure metropolises like London.

There’s plenty of green space in Canberra but it’s along the verges of roads, drains, hillsides or in a few concentrated (and wonderful) iconic spots in central canberra. We are actually doing quite poorly in the suburbs of Canberra for parks – even Beijing is better off after a 1000 years of development decisions. We can’t afford to lose any existing parks to governments with short-sighted objectives.

Yeah London has more public open space but far less private open space. It’s not really comparable.

Rover 12:45 am 10 May 17

Andrew Barr and government officials are being allowed to get away with the spurious and offensive claim that anyone who questions their plans is vilifying public housing tenants.

In Narrabundah, 23 per cent of dwellings are public housing. They are mainly freestanding houses or duplexes, or apartments within majority privately-owned complexes. The only reason I know which apartments in my complex are public housing is from seeing the ownership lists during a brief stint on the body corporate.

This is salt-and-peppering at its best.

However, the Government now plans to use land on Jerrabomberra Ave – located between the vets and the motel, separated by a licensed club – for two complexes of up to 30 two-bedroom townhouses exclusively for public housing.

This is not salt-and-peppering. This is rebuilding problems, in a suburb that for historical reasons already has a disproportionate amount of public housing.

When Housing ACT officials fronted an Inner South Community Council meeting a couple of months ago, they too played the “you are vilifying all public tenants” card. They completely ignored that the angriest voices in the room came from public housing tenants who pointed out that Housing ACT was not able to properly maintain its existing properties, nor protect its good tenants from the minority of bad tenants.

Andrew Barr wants to talk up his credentials as a public housing tenant as a child. I’ll be more impressed if he proposes a 30-unit public housing development near his adult home.

DamianC 11:13 pm 09 May 17

Community land needs a better system of protection in Canberra including the parks. Canberra is actually a little light on parks contrary to what might be the popular perception. Get out Google Maps and compare Canberra with cities around the world and you’ll find we don’t even compare well to under pressure metropolises like London. There’s plenty of green space in Canberra but it’s along the verges of roads, drains, hillsides or in a few concentrated (and wonderful) iconic spots in central canberra. We are actually doing quite poorly in the suburbs of Canberra for parks – even Beijing is better off after a 1000 years of development decisions. We can’t afford to lose any existing parks to governments with short-sighted objectives.

dungfungus 9:58 pm 09 May 17

chewy14 said :

Mark Parton MLA said :

chewy14 said :

No, this is a complete misreading of the change to suit the argument.
Supportive housing has always allowed for this type of development, the technical amendment simply clarified explicitly this definition to stop this exact type of misunderstanding. There is no difference between an old age home and social housing except for the community’s perception of the tenants.

The issue you really have is with the change made in 2005 to allow any form of residential development on this type of land use. That should be the question asked, do we want any form of residential developments on this land use type.

My personal opinion would be no, we don’t, but it’s a bit late and a bit convenient that this is only an issue now some local NIMBY’s might have to deal with it..

Perhaps Mark can agitate to change the definition back to disallowing residential uses altogether?

I think it’s entirely appropriate to allow an aged care facility or genuine supportive housing on a CFZ. I don’t think its appropriate to build ‘run of the mill’ public housing on those zones. What we’re seeing here is a government that believes it has a mandate to build whatever it wants, wherever it wants to build it irrespective of what the planning laws say.

Why do you believe an aged care facility is fundamentally different than the type of social housing that is proposed to be constructed on these sites?

The buildings can/will be similar, the uses are similar, as far as I can see the only difference is the tenants. And that isn’t a reason.

Particularly on the sites chosen where residents have not favoured the developments for reasons of access to services, loss of greenspace, proximity to bushfire zones. etc. All of which would be equally affected by an aged care facility or similar.

I think the main issue is the allowance of any residential development on CFZ.

Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t believe the ACT government is in the aged care business and why would they want be anyway? I mean, they have enough difficulty with running a public hospital.

Aren’t all Canberra’s aged care facilities owned and run by religious, ethnic or health funds etc? And the funding is largely federal.

It’s a non-issue in the context of this thread.

A

chewy14 8:10 pm 09 May 17

Mark Parton MLA said :

chewy14 said :

No, this is a complete misreading of the change to suit the argument.
Supportive housing has always allowed for this type of development, the technical amendment simply clarified explicitly this definition to stop this exact type of misunderstanding. There is no difference between an old age home and social housing except for the community’s perception of the tenants.

The issue you really have is with the change made in 2005 to allow any form of residential development on this type of land use. That should be the question asked, do we want any form of residential developments on this land use type.

My personal opinion would be no, we don’t, but it’s a bit late and a bit convenient that this is only an issue now some local NIMBY’s might have to deal with it..

Perhaps Mark can agitate to change the definition back to disallowing residential uses altogether?

I think it’s entirely appropriate to allow an aged care facility or genuine supportive housing on a CFZ. I don’t think its appropriate to build ‘run of the mill’ public housing on those zones. What we’re seeing here is a government that believes it has a mandate to build whatever it wants, wherever it wants to build it irrespective of what the planning laws say.

Why do you believe an aged care facility is fundamentally different than the type of social housing that is proposed to be constructed on these sites?

The buildings can/will be similar, the uses are similar, as far as I can see the only difference is the tenants. And that isn’t a reason.

Particularly on the sites chosen where residents have not favoured the developments for reasons of access to services, loss of greenspace, proximity to bushfire zones. etc. All of which would be equally affected by an aged care facility or similar.

I think the main issue is the allowance of any residential development on CFZ.

RobS 6:52 pm 09 May 17

Actually, after reading the definition in the Territory Plan, there’s less distinction than I’d care to admit. Ignore my previous.

wildturkeycanoe 6:43 pm 09 May 17

Thank you so very much for bringing this topic into the light of government scrutiny and attempting to catch them out on this deception. My questions to the relevant authorities have gone unanswered for months. They think the sheep of Canberra voters are happy to have the wool pulled over their eyes, but not this one. I fully support your argument, that public housing does not equal supported housing in this instance.
The government would have us believe that public housing tenants are just ordinary folks, so no need for angst about them living next door. But at the same time they say these new residents also need to be assisted by government services, classifying them as living in supported housing. How many ACT residents get government support in one way or another? Are they all grouped under this same umbrella, meaning they are living in supportive housing? No. Neither are these new public housing tenants. The line has blurred so much that community no longer means everyone in a suburb, but instead whatever group the politicians feel they need to use as leverage today.
Please keep fighting for our green spaces, our children’s future parks and playgrounds. Where else can future generations come together to socialize, worship, care for one another and enjoy the “Bush Capital.”?

RobS 6:37 pm 09 May 17

chewy14 said :

There is no difference between an old age home and social housing except for the community’s perception of the tenants.

That’s wrong. There are a number differences, mainly that effect the design and accessibility of the housing itself – particularly the density. Supportive housing is specifically for aged/assisted living folks which, amongst other things, caters for people get about in wheel chairs (require enlarged door ways) or who can’t climb stairs. It’s not the same thing at all.

I agree that we should question the use of land zoned for community use for housing at all. It places restrictions on what could be used of whatever’s left of the community zoned land (if any).

Mark Parton MLA 6:11 pm 09 May 17

chewy14 said :

No, this is a complete misreading of the change to suit the argument.
Supportive housing has always allowed for this type of development, the technical amendment simply clarified explicitly this definition to stop this exact type of misunderstanding. There is no difference between an old age home and social housing except for the community’s perception of the tenants.

The issue you really have is with the change made in 2005 to allow any form of residential development on this type of land use. That should be the question asked, do we want any form of residential developments on this land use type.

My personal opinion would be no, we don’t, but it’s a bit late and a bit convenient that this is only an issue now some local NIMBY’s might have to deal with it..

Perhaps Mark can agitate to change the definition back to disallowing residential uses altogether?

I think it’s entirely appropriate to allow an aged care facility or genuine supportive housing on a CFZ. I don’t think its appropriate to build ‘run of the mill’ public housing on those zones. What we’re seeing here is a government that believes it has a mandate to build whatever it wants, wherever it wants to build it irrespective of what the planning laws say.

Damien Haas 5:11 pm 09 May 17

Mark, what amendments did your colleagues suggest on this aspect of the changes to the Territory Plan? Could you please provide a link to any submissions that the Canberra Liberals made at the time on this specific issue.

chewy14 4:27 pm 09 May 17

No, this is a complete misreading of the change to suit the argument.
Supportive housing has always allowed for this type of development, the technical amendment simply clarified explicitly this definition to stop this exact type of misunderstanding. There is no difference between an old age home and social housing except for the community’s perception of the tenants.

The issue you really have is with the change made in 2005 to allow any form of residential development on this type of land use. That should be the question asked, do we want any form of residential developments on this land use type.

My personal opinion would be no, we don’t, but it’s a bit late and a bit convenient that this is only an issue now some local NIMBY’s might have to deal with it..

Perhaps Mark can agitate to change the definition back to disallowing residential uses altogether?

Mark Parton MLA 2:02 pm 09 May 17

Garfield said :

Glad to see the Liberals have finally tightened the focus onto this issue rather than letting Andrew Barr get away with accusing people opposed to these developments as being anti public housing – its only taken 7 weeks.

I believe there are also strong links to the government decision making here with the cost of light rail. They’re getting large sums of money for selling the existing public housing on Northbourne, but instead of investing that money back into replacement public housing they decided to spend it on light rail. So with no money to acquire replacement public housing, what are they doing? Well they’re not using vacant residential zoned land to construct new dwellings as they need the money from selling that land to developers, so they’re taking land from the community that they couldn’t otherwise profit from.

Mark Parton is quite right when he says the precedent being set here could see CFZ land in any suburb turned into more dwellings. If people have some vacant land nearby that they value or expect to eventually be turned into something to benefit the community, they should be checking its zoning, and telling Labor and the Greens to keep their hands off community land.

Thanks Garfield. You are absolutely right in your assertions about the large sums of money that the government received from the sale of the existing Northbourne sites. The mathematics of the light rail equation are so skinny that they must squeeze every bit of cash out of every related scenario.

The tech amendment issue is a tough one to prosecute in the public space because of its complexity but we will continue to hold the government to account on this issue. Nicole Lawder has a motion on Wednesday morning as Planning Shadow seeking to make the government explain the tech amendment and to cease residential development on CFZ land except specifically for aged or disability housing.

Garfield 11:48 am 09 May 17

Glad to see the Liberals have finally tightened the focus onto this issue rather than letting Andrew Barr get away with accusing people opposed to these developments as being anti public housing – its only taken 7 weeks.

I believe there are also strong links to the government decision making here with the cost of light rail. They’re getting large sums of money for selling the existing public housing on Northbourne, but instead of investing that money back into replacement public housing they decided to spend it on light rail. So with no money to acquire replacement public housing, what are they doing? Well they’re not using vacant residential zoned land to construct new dwellings as they need the money from selling that land to developers, so they’re taking land from the community that they couldn’t otherwise profit from.

Mark Parton is quite right when he says the precedent being set here could see CFZ land in any suburb turned into more dwellings. If people have some vacant land nearby that they value or expect to eventually be turned into something to benefit the community, they should be checking its zoning, and telling Labor and the Greens to keep their hands off community land.

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