Growing and Renewing Public Housing

14 May 2019

Last October, I launched the ACT Housing Strategy which sets out government actions in affordable housing over the next decade. One of the key pieces of this strategy is a $100 million commitment to continue the renewal of public housing and support growth over the next five years.

This investment builds on the success of the current public housing renewal program and will see 1,200 properties new homes built for public housing tenants, including an extra 200 homes for people on the housing register.

Madam Speaker, four years ago this Government committed to the largest renewal of public housing in our history with the replacement of 1,288 public housing dwellings. While the ACT has the highest ratio of public housing per capita of any jurisdiction in Australia, we also had, on average, some of the oldest.

The housing that has been renewed and replaced, roof-for-roof, had reached the end of their useful life. They were built to the standards of the time, intended to be temporary accommodation for newly arrived workers to Canberra. The buildings had little or no energy efficiency rating, did not match the needs of public housing tenants and not adaptable for older tenants or people with a disability.

The renewal of public housing enables a better alignment of the portfolio with tenant needs and size with an increasing number of single person households. It has also broken down concentrations of disadvantage and increased public housing in area where there was previously very little.

Madam Speaker, I recently attended the opening of a new complex in Monash which marked the 1,000th home completed under the current renewal program. It was great to see these homes, ready for their new residents and I’ve consistently been impressed by the homes being delivered for tenants. The dwellings at Monash were fully adaptable suitable for older tenants and people with a disability. All new public housing have a minimum six-star energy rating and efficient appliances which means they are cheaper to heat and cool during the Canberra seasons.

The current program has been developed with a mix of housing types in 39 different suburbs across Canberra.

The Government has committed over $600 million over the life of this current program and this investment in the development and construction of replacement public housing has supported the local industry, generating thousands of jobs.

At times the debate around this renewal program has been difficult. I would like to acknowledge the contribution made by the Canberra community in the planning and consultation process over the last few years. In order to renew and build public housing in new areas, it has been an ongoing conversation about how we can share some space and our great suburbs with vulnerable Canberrans in our public housing and also welcome them into the community.

Madam Speaker, it is important that we do not forget the experience of tenants in this renewal program. Relocated tenants were supported by considering their individual needs and preferences. Over the life of the program, approximately 1400 people have moved into new homes. For many people, moving home has provided the opportunity for a fresh start, while for others it has allowed them to move closer to family, friends or services they are linked in with.

I have heard many stories from tenants who have moved into their new home and the significant improvement to their lives and overall wellbeing it has made.  The program has empowered tenants to take hold of opportunities and take pride in their homes that better suits their needs. Some tenants have chosen to stay in an area they know, while other tenants have taken the opportunity to move to an area that is closer to their family or workplace.

As the current program nears its successful completion in June this year, it does not mean the government will be slowing down it’s investment in public housing.

This week, I released the ACT Housing Strategy: Growing and Renewing Public Housing 2019-24, which provides the detail on the new $100 million investment and how we will continue to realign public housing to better meet the needs of current and future tenants.

The forward program of growth and renewal shifts gears; it changes focus from divesting multi-unit complexes to renewing and growing our single and low-density stock.

It changes focus from building new public housing on predominantly vacant land to using Housing ACT’s existing land more efficiently.

But one thing will not change and that is putting tenants at the centre of all we do. 

To achieve the renewal target of 1,000 dwellings and the growth target of at least 200 dwellings, Housing ACT will demolish around 300 old dwellings that no longer meet the needs of our tenants but are in locations worth preserving; they may be located near shops, schools, services and transport. 

On these sites, around 700 new dwellings will be constructed. By renewing on existing sites, we will provide tenants with more choice about where they live and whether they relocate permanently to a new home, or choose to return to their old neighbourhood.

Housing ACT will also construct around 360 new dwellings on land available through the Indicative Land Release Program as part of the Public Housing Targets.

There will be more Class C Adaptable homes that are suitable for all tenants with a range of ages and abilities. There will be more two and four bedroom homes and reducing our overall number of three bedroom homes, so that the homes built better match the family size and needs of tenants.

Housing ACT will also purchase around 140 homes from the market. It will use the purchasing component of the program to grow its portfolio in areas with low holdings or where redevelopment opportunities are not available.

To supplement the $100 million investment, Housing ACT will also sell around 700 older dwellings that will generate approx. $500 million to reinvested straight back in the growth and renewal of public housing.

The sales program will be used to reduce holdings in areas where the amount of public housing is higher or where houses are not well located. It will also sell houses that no longer meet the needs of tenants or no longer viable for long-term use.

Over the ten years to 2024, the ACT Government will have invested more than a billion dollars in public housing and renewed approximately 20 per cent of the public housing portfolio. 

Madam Speaker, this is the largest investment and commitment of any Government in Australia to public housing.

If you compare our $100 million investment in public housing on a per capita basis to other jurisdictions, New South Wales would need to invest nearly $2 billion and Victoria would need to invest $1.5 billion.

Madam Speaker, our ongoing commitment to the renewal and growth of public housing ensures we continue to better meet the needs of vulnerable Canberrans in need of long-term housing.   

Because of this program, at least two hundred additional households from our public housing register will be able to access safe, secure and affordable housing. 

Madam Speaker, the government will continue our record investment in public housing.