«The sales of the sites as four parcels does not preclude one purchaser from buying all four blocks and developing a precinct.»
Out of the three former public housing complexes up for sale, which total a maximum expected 1153 units, only 70 units — all in the Lyons block — are required to be affordable housing.
That’s despite the territory government previously suggesting that up to 10 per cent of the developments on each site would be affordable housing. In the government’s 2018 housing strategy, it said it was committed to making 15 per cent of new developments in the ACT public, community, or affordable housing.
«We cannot allow high amenity locations to become devoid of social and affordable housing in the event of urban renewal in in-fill sites,» ACT Shelter Executive Officer, Travis Gilbert, said.
«Consistency and transparency in the scheme is critical; it is really important that any affordable housing targets are clear before land gets re-zoned, so prospective development applicants can price-in these requirements.»
The Griffith and Narrabundah sites did not include affordable housing targets, a spokesperson for the ACT government said.
It is understood that the government’s affordable housing targets were introduced after the sites were released.
«The ‘Asset Recycling Initiative’ sites that include affordable housing targets are the Macarthur House Site, Lyneham (50 affordable dwellings) and Strathgordon Court, Lyons (70 affordable dwellings),» the spokesperson said.
«The percentage of social and affordable housing varies from suburb to suburb, and is currently much higher in the Inner North and Inner South areas of Canberra.»
The ACT Council of Social Services initially advocated for 20 per cent of all new housing to be public housing, Director Susan Helyar said. But it was happy to support a smaller target of 15 per cent — which for these sites, was not being applied.
«Community confidence in the ACT Government delivering on their affordable housing will be strengthened when all land sales meet the 15 per cent affordable housing target – including development of sites in the inner north and the inner south,» Ms Helyar said.
The government had lodged development applications for the demolition of all three sites last year but the developers who buy the sites will now be responsible for the demolition.
The approved development applications would be included in the sale the sites, the government spokesperson said. The applications would not propose any new structures or make any changes to planning controls already in place.
«Demolition by the government followed by settlement would not be able to be achieved within the ARI timeframes,» the government spokesperson said.
The Narrabundah block is 13,775 square metres, and could hold a maximum of 177 dwellings. The Lyons block is 23,289 square metres, and could hold a maximum of 492 dwellings.
The total six blocks, including Stuart’s four, are zoned RZ5, or high-density residential. This generally allows for a maximum height of 21.5 metres and six storeys, although this can differ depending on the surrounding houses.
In 2017-18, there were 11,637 public housing units in the ACT. The government intends to have 11,809 public housing units available by the end of 2019.
Cassandra Morgan is a reporter at The Canberra Times. She was previously a breaking news reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.