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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 4 August 2015) . . Page.. 2245 ..

The importance of locating public housing in the ACT close to public transport and key services.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (3.51): Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this very important subject. It would not be hard to get the impression that the government’s new found interest in renewing housing stock has nothing to do with the tenants. For 15 years the government has largely ignored the large flat complexes that ACT housing runs. As a former housing minister I am aware there was a big flat strategy that looked at some 19 complexes in an ongoing way so that we could renew them all over time. We started quite successfully with the removal of Macpherson Court, which became City Edge.

With much approval by this Assembly it was emptied of tenants, who were found suitable other accommodation. There were 144 bedsits in Macpherson Court which were old, tired, and not particularly healthy. City Edge, which has won many awards both for building and environmental quality of life, arose from that site. The new City Edge was sensational because it had in it private tenants who purchased and government tenants from a number of specialist groups, including general ACT Housing tenants and aged and disability accommodation as well.

The same happened with the old Lachlan Court on Brisbane Avenue. That had also reached the end of its life; the tenants were moved to other locations and it was developed into a very fine complex which suits the character of the area. In 2001 I remember going with the then housing minister, Mr Moore, to knock down the sign at Burnie Court. Burnie Court I think was 364 bedsits; it was transitional accommodation for public servants moving to the ACT in the late 60s and early 70s and it was never meant to be long-term accommodation, but long-term accommodation it became. It was not a very good location and it had a very poor reputation. Again, because we had a long-term strategy, it was next in line. The problem for the community was that, despite announcing its renewal in 2001, it took until about 2007 for this government to act on Burnie Court, such was its interest in public housing large flat complexes.

In the 15 years of this government there has been only one new announcement—the renewal of Fraser Court. With one complex in 15 years people could be forgiven for being a little bit cynical about this government’s approach to public housing, particularly with regard to large blocks of flats and the outcomes in keeping people close to things like public transport and key services.

Lo and behold, because the government wants a train to keep Mr Rattenbury happy, it is willing to move all these tenants. There is a sudden flurry of activity in the announcement that we now have a Minister for Urban Renewal to make this happen. That role competes with the Minister for Housing. As you, Madam Assistant Speaker, and I found out in the recent estimates hearings, it is very hard to get a handle on who does what. It came down to the Chief Minister as the Minister for Urban Renewal looks after buildings and the Minister for Housing looks after people.

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