Page 467 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 18 February 2015

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I would like to turn to the comments on Ms Fitzharris’s motion about housing, because what I can say unequivocally is that we need to grow our social housing stock and we need to be more responsive to the environmental and social needs of a modern housing portfolio. That means we must renew and redevelop our housing stock so that we can better support vulnerable members of our community.

It means improving the quality of our housing—for instance, fulfilling our parliamentary agreement item to continue expanding public housing efficiency upgrades to reduce the environmental impact and to make heating and cooling more affordable for tenants. That is one of those very practical things that government can do to ease cost of living pressures: make sure that houses do have the right insulation so that tenants are not racking up massive electricity bills but instead are able to use money for other matters as well as having a comfortable quality of life in the house that they are in.

We need to build new housing that is designed to meet the needs of tenants. Often this will mean smaller complexes of 10 to 15 units to reduce the risk of pockets of disadvantage forming and to promote more inclusive neighbourhoods. I think this is a very important lesson as we reconsider the development of some of the large multi-unit housing sites across the territory. I think the lessons of years bygone are that those large-scale developments do have their own negative social issues that can arise. Certainly, the wisdom these days is that having a smaller group of houses builds a better sense of community and avoids some of those problems that have arisen in some of the larger scale developments.

For me, that is one of the advantages of moving to redevelop some of these sites. We also need to have a new approach to the often wicked problems associated with an ageing stock that was built to respond to the needs of a different time and when Canberra was a very different place. Certainly, I think that goes back again to issues of design around energy efficiency but also accessibility—building houses that are of a universal design so that a range of tenants can access them. This includes those with a disability and those without a disability, but also so that people can age in place. As their mobility declines, they do not need to move house. In fact, the house can be quite cost effectively adapted for them.

These things perhaps do not seem like urban renewal, but at the very personal scale these are the things that urban renewal is actually all about. There are opportunities for true urban renewal inherent in addressing these issues. They require a whole-of-government approach to achieve better outcomes. I was certainly proud to have worked with my cabinet colleagues last year to secure a roof-for-roof replacement of public housing properties identified as needing renewal. In particular, along Northbourne Avenue, I was proud to see consideration given to rebuilding housing within walking distance of the transport corridor.

We need to explore the urban renewal process as being more than bricks and mortar. It is also about the human story, the human scale and, as they say in the classics, the vibe of the thing. It needs careful planning and genuine consultation with not just the tenants but also the broader community about the future sustainability of the urban

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