YWCA Canberra has refuted claims that it has not consulted with residents on a proposal for supported accommodation in Ainslie, and emphatically rejected suggestions that any part of a public park will be built on.
Some residents had claimed that they are not opposed to public or social housing but feel the site is not suitable and believe there are better pieces of land available. They said the planned development “looks like a 1970 motel”.
But CEO Frances Crimmins said the proposal for 10 single-storey units for older women on Block 1 Section 87 on Rutherford Crescent would not encroach on neighbouring Bill Pye Park in any way and would be wholly confined to the footprint of the current property.
She said the proposal had been scaled back from a 16-unit development with some double storey construction elements after consultation with residents.
Consultation during the year had been disrupted by COVID-19 but included two on-site meetings in February attended by about 10 residents, and a virtual presentation of the revised proposal in May.
YWCA Canberra and architects AMC also placed information in the North Canberra Community Council (NCCC) newsletter to ensure residents were informed about their intentions and could provide feedback.
The organisation did receive a letter from ‘Rutherford Crescent Residents & Neighbours of Bill Pye Park’ on 2 June, but it repeated claims about a lack of consultation, did not cover any new ground, reinforced an inaccurate understanding of the proposal and circulated disturbing assumptions about future residents.
”We did not believe a response would be received in good faith,” Ms Crimmins said.
She said the YWCA Canberra had leased the community facilities zoned site from before self-government and currently had a 99-year lease to deliver childcare and community activities.
The land and building was last valued at $500,000 and YWCA Canberra would be funding the construction of the proposal.
Ms Crimmins said the traffic concerns would be dealt with in the development application’s traffic report.
She said it was never intended for the project to take over a park.
”We have been honest and transparent with residents,” she said. ”We have genuinely tried to listen and hear their concerns. We have compromised and changed the site significantly.
”It’s community-zoned land and we’re just trying to use it to meet the needs of the community.”
Ms Crimmins said YWCA Canberra was only building to about 30 per cent of capacity because it had always intended to be a good neighbour.
”We want the older women who will live here to feel comfortable in their neighbourhood,” she said.
The project is an initiative of the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund established last year.
Ms Crimmins said other neighbours had endorsed the project.