4 September 2020

YWCA Canberra sets record straight on Ainslie accommodation plans

| Ian Bushnell
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Frances Crimmins

CEO of YWCA Canberra Frances Crimmins: ”We have genuinely tried to listen and hear their concerns. We have compromised and changed the site significantly.”

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.

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For those interested in more facts and information, please head to the Ainslie Community Association (ACA) website: http://www.ainsliecommunityassociation.com [ainslie community association DOT com].

This building is typical of the original architecture in the North Ainslie region. It has a community feel to it. North Ainslie is slightly different to South Ainslie as it is newer by several decades and has the more working class wooden buildings which were built for the less wealthy. It is essential to the character of the North Ainslie side of Ainslie to keep some of the original cottages. This cottage is surrounded by equally old trees, planted around 1950. The planning of this preschool building dates back to 1944. This building is part of North Ainslie history.

RUTHERFORD RESIDENTS [EP1] Genuine Consultation

Thanks for your response and being straight with the community. Genuine community consultation isn’t easy. There are many reasons why people don’t participate – too busy, didn’t hear about it, intimidated by the process or simply don’t care. If the YWCA’s consultation process has involved 2 meetings attended by 10 people and a ‘virtual’ meeting, then the engagement hasn’t been successful. In the trade this type of consultation is called ‘talking to yourself’.
The Residents Group have been walking around the suburb dropping off information flyers about the proposed development and so far nobody has heard the developments happening. When asked, our elected members for Kurrajong also said they didn’t know
There is a very good document ‘Engaging Canberrans: A guide to community engagement published by the ACT Government (2011) available on the net. Worth a read.
The Residents Group sent a letter, a majority of the people in the street summarising the range of issues raised by those who couldn’t attend the meetings. It is an extraordinary and disrespectful excuse not to respond to this letter because the YWCA believes this information would not be received in ‘good faith’. As the letter didn’t …‘cover any new ground, reinforced an inaccurate understanding of the proposal’.
It’s important for Ainslie residents to get an up-to-date understanding of this residential development proposal but this information is hard to get. Please provide a copy to ourpark20@gmail.com or even better provide an accessible website. This would enable feedback and comment.
Residents would like a government-run consultation looking at alternatives for this community land and secondly if there is agreement to residential that the density complies with RZ1 (which is the zoning for all surrounding land).

Thanks again and hope people continue to genuinely listen. We Love Ainslie.

RUTHERFORD RESIDENTS [EP2] Money For Nothing and Land For Free

If the YWCA was serious about not harming people they would use their construction money to buy 10 low-cost units in residential developments. This simple solution would be better for the dozens of local residents impacted and the dozen future tenants. Playing the developer role will damage the ‘do-good’ YWCA brand.
Demolishing the existing preschool building and replacing it with medium density housing is taking the misuse of this community facilities site to the next level. The sign out the front names the building is YWCA Community House although the community hasn’t had access to the building for over 20 years. The YWCA was given a lease to deliver childcare and community activities on the site. To help with the delivery of these services the YWCA has not paid rent or rates. The organisation has not delivered the services from this site. For ten years they have subleased the building to a community group as office space. Has the site been gifted to the organisation?

Ms Crimmins states that the land and building has been valued at $500,000. Realestate professionals agree that this 1800 sqm block, with an entitlement to build 10-16 units, would be valued at $2.75 million ($1500 sqm).

The YWCA has decided that the site is ‘under-utilised’, and luckily, the Government’s Affordable Housing Innovation Fund had a program that funded bids from “Lessees of Under-utilised Community Facilities Land”. Free community land and a grant to support residential development. Developers you wish!

We thought Community Facilities were preschools, halls, schools, churches – places where the community comes together. If the YWCA really cared they would give the facility back so that it can be used to engage and enrich the community. We love Ainslie.

Jerome Allan5:37 pm 05 Sep 20

Yes, Frances and her architect met with a few nearby residents. The facts are on the 22nd May 2020 they showed us their plans and said they didn’t want any feedback. Yes, that’s what she said! There were around 8 residents on the call – we all heard and clarified the point. They didn’t want any feedback. They were finalising their plans. So, did they consult? What was the point of the meeting – just to say they have consulted? We sent our feedback anyway – but didn’t get a response.
In February, Frances and the architect said the YWCA scope was to build between 7 and 15 dwellings on the community facilities zoned block that is in a residential area. Frances showed us one design in scope with 10 units and one out of scope with 16 units and asked which we preferred. Why show us one design that isn’t in scope? Wouldn’t you have thought that showing 2 options in scope would have been better?
The YWCA sent a notice to the NCCC published June 22. Nowhere does the information sheet published ask for feedback. It was published after they already said it was passed the point where they wanted feedback to make any changes. No other information was published with NCCC. The NCCC representatives we contacted said that was the only engagement. Their information sheet says “YWCA Canberra have engaged with the North Canberra Community Council throughout this process”.
part 2 to follow

Jerome Allan5:38 pm 05 Sep 20

Part 2
What I find disappointing is the government gave a $125,000 grant to design the housing for this block and the people who currently live here haven’t been heard. If the community site must be changed to public housing, without other community uses being considered, we would prefer something in keeping with the suburb and a nice place for the people who will live there. Building 10 houses in a warehouse structure is not in keeping with the suburb and won’t be nice for the 10 families to live on the one block. 3 of the houses won’t have north facing windows. Haven’t we gone beyond developing housing without passive solar and creating a quality place for the people who are going to live there and the residents who already live here?
Frances advised in our May 22nd meeting that YWCA can’t go less than 10 dwellings on this residential sized block as it doesn’t make the yield the YWCA needs to make this investment viable. It’s not good that an ACT Government funded design for supportive housing is about making the yield and not about making quality homes and harmonious living for those in most desperate need for a quality and safe environment.

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