Hundreds of Gungahlin residents have opposed plans for a new housing development in their suburb, indicating the kind of opposition the ACT government will face as it tries to "salt and pepper" public housing throughout Canberra.
More than 1300 new public housing dwellings in groups of between 14 and 25 homes will be built around Canberra over five years as the government looks to decentralise properties and cash in on valuable inner-city land.
By 2020, residents will be moved from the Northbourne Avenue housing precinct, the Allawah, Bega and Currong flats in the city, and estates in Griffith, Woden and Red Hill.
But in an early test of this plan, residents in Nicholls have started to campaign against a small development of 14 units, complaining their safety, amenity and transport options would suffer if the proposed development near the Gold Creek primary school goes ahead.
A public housing renewal taskforce letter to Nicholls residents in February prompted 200 written responses, overwhelmingly opposed to the plan to develop a site currently zoned for community facilities.
Originally designed with 16 units, the development was scaled down after consultation.
Among the objections, Nicholls resident Jayleen Chen told the government the project would bring a "negative impact" to a family-friendly neighbourhood where properties regularly attract premium prices.
"I don't want to have to worry about my son's safety when he is playing outside on the street or on his way to or from school in the near future," Ms Chen said.
"Nicholls is one of the prestige suburbs in Canberra. It has nice established neighbourhood, residents with relatively high average income and no public housing, which was one of the reasons that compelled us to move to Nicholls years ago."
Doug Fox said the housing plan was unnecessary development that would see "potential slum" replace open space used for recreation by local families.
"Public housing smack in the middle of our communal space is not in keeping with that intent. I am sorry but you don't put your dirty laundry in your front window and that is what public housing in our mini-town centre does," he said.
Natasha Connell said building public housing close to childcare and schools would represent a safety risk to students and their families.
"I am baffled as to why the government thinks this would be a good idea to put possibly drug addicts, paedophiles and other people with mental disabilities within the same precinct," Mrs Connell wrote.
"We want our kids to have the freedom and security of riding and walking to school and after school or on weekends to visit their mates when they choose. We feel that this development is a blockade and a threat to the lifestyle that we had envisaged for our children."
On Monday, Gold Creek parents and citizens association representatives Michele Justin and Michael Rush criticised the plans, saying it could bring drug use and crime to area while the government had changed the types of residents.
A public meeting also heard concerns about increased traffic and a lack of car parking.
Housing Minister Yvette Berry this week warned against unfair generalisations about public housing communities, including stereotypes of antisocial behaviour and crime.
She stressed senior citizens and people living with disabilities relied on adequate government supported housing.
Nicholls resident Janice Dalton said local services there wouldn't cope, while potential drug use and crime could rise.
"The IGA supermarket is expensive along with the hairdresser so will not be in the price range for low income people to afford. The only reasonable shop is the take away which is not a healthy option," she said.
Jenny and William Ruthenberg said Nicholls was "in desperate need for proper play parks and dog parks [and] recreational areas."
"What use will the community have if ACT Housing houses are cramped into a small piece of land?"
Many residents raised a lack of public transport to the area, as well as other services including health and community groups.
"Nicholls is very suburban," resident Amanda Kiley said.
"Our local shops consist of a supermarket, beautician, hairdresser and two restaurants. People who require supportive housing need access to larger scale supermarkets, doctors and Centrelink."
Construction on the development is expected to commence in late-2015 with completion anticipated in 2016 or 2017.
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