Page 1361 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 May 2015

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It is fascinating to look at the detail of where our public housing stock is. As Ms Fitzharris touched on in her earlier comments, we see very significant levels in some of the older suburbs. Ainslie has the highest number of public housing properties, but through large parts of the inner north and inner south we see very high numbers. What is interesting to see is that some of our newer suburbs have little if no public housing.

In some ways we have some work to do to maintain that salt and pepper approach. This means the government needs to be looking at where it will build new housing. This was certainly something I was considering in my time as housing minister, and that is why I am so pleased to see this issue raised again in the Assembly, to reaffirm our commitment to this really important idea that we want our social and public housing spread throughout the city and not concentrated in particular areas.

The reasons for this approach should be clear, but let me touch on a few of the more obvious ones that are worth reinforcing in the context of this discussion. Public housing tenants are our neighbours; they are our friends and families and they have links to their communities the way everyone else does. They live, work and play in Canberra, just like everyone else, and they offer the same contributions to the overall life of the city, just like everyone else. By supporting social and public housing across the territory we recognise these facts and acknowledge that someone’s relative need for housing support—a basic human right—should not preclude them from enjoying the same facilities and amenities as everybody else.

We do not want to corral people, based on their vulnerabilities, nor exclude them from active engagement with the life of the city because of their income. I believe the policy works well when properly implemented. By reducing concentrations of disadvantage, we break down negative stereotypes and enhance opportunities for social inclusion. We highlight our egalitarian society and reduce isolation.

There are many practical reasons as well. By providing a broad range of both types of housing and locations, we respect that individuals have individual needs and that these needs may change over time. Tenants need to be close to work or training, schools and shops and have access to public transport and public services—all the things anyone looks at when seeking new accommodation. Some of our tenants require more support than others in relation to accessing these opportunities. By limiting the areas available to those tenants, we can actively compound and increase existing disadvantage in a range of ways.

I need to acknowledge that there are, indeed, areas where the positives of this approach have perhaps failed. I think the fact that this government is working hard to change its approach reflects that. I am talking to some clear examples of concentration we are all aware of—the Allawah, Bega and Currong apartment complexes, the Northbourne corridor and the Stuart flats, to name a few.

These buildings are ageing infrastructure no longer suitable for many of our current client needs, both physically and socially. The built form is poorly adaptable to the extremes of hot and cold we experience in the ACT, costly to run and maintain, and represents an outdated and, frankly, ineffective response to the complex issues of homelessness and accommodation needs.

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