ACT News

CSIRO Ginninderra development prompts formulation of affordable housing strategy

Redevelopment of the CSIRO's Ginninderra Field Station could be under way within two years, as the research organisation looks to experts for proper integration of affordable housing options as part of a new community.

Experts from universities, social service agencies, charities, banks and financial institutions will come together for an affordable housing think tank event in Canberra on April 8, before the CSIRO engages a consortium or joint-development partner for redevelopment, pending federal government approvals on required zoning changes. 

ACT Shelter boss Travis Gilbert and CSIRO general manager Mark Wallis at the Ginninderra Field Station.
ACT Shelter boss Travis Gilbert and CSIRO general manager Mark Wallis at the Ginninderra Field Station. Photo: Jay Cronan

Proceeds from any sale, first flagged in August 2015, would be put towards new facilities for priority research. CSIRO business and infrastructure general manager Mark Wallis said achieving the best financial result for the organisation was only one criteria for the sale.

"When we sat down to decide a number of key elements that we wanted to address, they included ensuring we delivered a benchmark in urban sustainable design in Australia. One of the other issues identified as key is addressing affordable housing.

"We've invited experts along, both ACT and interstate based leaders in a range of areas, including architecture and building design, financing, home ownership models, community housing people and energy efficiency."

Affordable housing products are provided for rent or purchase at prices that low and moderate income households can afford, while also meeting other living expenses. The CSIRO expects to deliver more than the required 20 per cent quota on the field station site.

The 701-hectare area sits on the ACT-New South Wales border, framed by the Barton Highway, William Slim Drive, Owen Dixon Drive and Kuringa Drive.

First established in 1960, the field station replaced research sites at the current site of the Dickson shops. The area has been home to the development of a range of projects including novel grains and agricultural systems.

Mr Wallis said maximising the value of the site included the benefit of the community. The think tank event will contribute to guidance on best methods for consideration of affordable housing models.

ACT Shelter executive officer Travis Gilbert welcomed the think tank event and said the CSIRO was committed to incorporating the needs to affordable housing consumers.

"I think what the event will do is provide an opportunity to bring some leading experts into one room to have a discussion about how we can guide the aspirations of CSIRO and those of housing people, to get what I think could be a good quality development and something a bit different to more rent housing developments," he said.

"One of the issues when we talk about affordable housing is price ... and what that can sometimes mean is putting as many tiny units per square metres of accommodation as you can get for the price and selling them at a price that is technically affordable but still maximises profit."

Mr Gilbert said affordable housing didn't mean cheap housing.

"What ACT Shelter is really interested in pursuing is how affordable is a home to live in? A higher energy efficiency rating, for example, makes it much cheaper for people to heat and cool their homes."

The discussion will include shared equity and innovative purchase structures, shared housing arrangements and comparisons between ownership and rentals.