Page 171 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 9 February 2022

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With many properties constructed in the 1970s and 1980s to meet Canberra’s growing population, maintenance is an ongoing issue, and one that we know can create some frustrations for rent-paying tenants. We will explore how we can deliver community facilities differently and better in the future. Our aims are to provide suitable, comfortable and sustainable facilities for a diverse range of current tenants, while also continuing to expand the community facilities and space available across Canberra to provide a home for more groups and organisations as our city grows.

The government’s successful public housing renewal program undertaken in recent years provides one possible live model for this work. By looking at our public housing portfolio as a whole, and at how we could better meet the needs of tenants, in housing we have been able to replace 1,288 of our oldest and least fit-for-purpose properties with new, comfortable, modern and adaptable homes that will be a great place for those people to live. That was achieved by relocating old, high-density public housing, concentrated in a few places, to lower-density regular homes across the suburbs. There may be more value in exploring a process like this, possibly in reverse, for our community facilities.

We want to consider opportunities to bring facilities which are often spread out across our suburbs and not accessible, into closer, accessible centres that are in proximity with our group centres and town centres and that might make them easy to access and better co-located with complementary services and facilities.

There are opportunities for co-investment with community organisations, for those that have the ability to do so, and not-for-profits in new facilities. We know, for example, that there is high unmet demand through the land release program by community organisations who want to purchase new community facilities land, but there is often a shortage of supply of the type of land that is suitable—for example, for sporting facilities, places of worship, childcare centres, aged-care facilities and the like. We want to talk with the community sector to understand their appetite and capacity for exploring these types of models and whether there are models that we can look to interstate or overseas for inspiration. The sector may have ideas that are well suited to these types of demonstration projects, and it will enable us to test and trial the new approaches that Ms Orr’s motion calls for.

In undertaking this work, we are considering options to renew and grow our community facilities. It is important to recognise that our existing properties do have some important characteristics beyond their use by community groups. Some of these facilities are located at former school sites. These are, of course, very sensitive. They serve as important community hubs; and they may be needed in the future to deliver schools again, if the demographics change in a particular suburb and as we work to make Canberra a more compact and sustainable city.

We agree with Ms Orr’s motion, in that we should not be looking first at those school sites that are community hubs. Those need to remain in community and public hands. We also recognise that local communities often value green space and amenities around those community facilities. This will be an important consideration and conversation as we explore opportunities in the future.

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