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ACT public housing renewal reaches halfway mark

The territory government's $600 million public housing renewal project is halfway complete, with more than 600 properties finished and handed over to Housing ACT.

The huge project has so far seen 662 dwellings handed over to Housing ACT and another 287 dwellings are being built in Throsby and Taylor in Gungahlin, Monash in Tuggeranong, and Holt in Belconnen.

A further 227 dwellings are being bought from the private sector in Lyneham, Turner and Dickson in the inner north and Amaroo in Gungahlin. Ninety-four dwellings are either in planning  or construction is due to start on them in coming weeks.

The auditor-general in June last year questioned whether the project would get its original total sales figures, after the government saw a $94 million shortfall in total sales prices by November 2016 due to lower sales values.

Dr Maxine Cooper's audit also brought into question whether the taskforce running the program would meet the July 2019 deadline to complete its asset sales, to get a 15 per cent bonus from the Commonwealth.

Despite lingering concerns meeting that deadline could flood an already over-supplied apartment market in Canberra, the government says it will meet the deadline, on time and on budget - including about $100 million in savings that will likely be returned to territory coffers.

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The four main blocks the government has already sold - Allawah Court and Currong apartments in Braddon, Karuah in Dickson, Bega Court in Reid and Owen Flats and De Burgh in Lyneham - went for a total of $134.4 million.

While that was $4.9 million, or about 3.6 per cent, below the original sales forecast, the spokesman said several sites were yet to be sold, which would influence the final result. 

To date, he said, about 690 of the 1363 public housing tenants that were to be relocated had been moved to new homes, to 486 tenancies.

But he said that all tenants were given "individual support" during the move and that many community organisations were working with Housing ACT to ensure their needs were met, a position last year's audit report largely supported.

Six of the biggest public housing blocks have been emptied of tenants or demolished, including Owen Flats, Dickson Flats, Allawah Court, Currong Apartments, Karuah and the Red Hill housing precinct, while some tenants still in the Northbourne Flats were "currently being supported to relocate".

"Tenants in the remaining properties which are part of the renewal program will be supported to move home from mid-2018 onwards, with these sites to be sold by 30 June 2019," the taskforce spokesman said.

While the government has said tenants being relocated had been given choices about where they could move to, it seems that has not been the case for tenants at Red Hill, with that suburb among those that feature no new public housing this year in targets released a fortnight ago.

Tenders also closed a fortnight ago for the sale of Red Hill to a private developer, but it is understood final decisions have not been made on the buyer, with a contract expected to be drawn up by late April.

The government has also lodged development applications for all the proposed replacement sites, but it still needs to buy 18 other dwellings to replace the full 1288 dwellings that will be demolished.

Completed projects include: 150 new two-bedroom units across seven sites in Coombs, 126 public housing dwellings in Moncrieff, 25 townhouses in a development Monash, 21 units in a two-storey development in Amaroo, 20 townhouses in Chisholm,  and 13 dwellings in Nicholls.

Work is underway in 25 dwellings in a development in Greenway, Tuggeranong, 12 two-bedroom dwellings in a development in Holt, six more townhouses in Monash, and 30 dwellings in a mix of apartments in townhouses in a separate development in Monash, and 47 units across two separate developments in Throsby.

Planning is underway for 64 units in two developments near the Gungahlin town centre, 20 homes in a  development in Chapman, 16 homes in a development in Holder, eight homes in Mawson, and 26 in a development in Wright, and an unspecified number across "several sites" in Denman Prospect.

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