ACT Council of Social Services Director Susan Helyar. Photo: Melissa Adams
Incorporating private renters into public housing complexes could help break down the pockets of social disadvantage in Canberra, stakeholders say.
The suggestion has been made amid renewed discussion over public housing, prompted by a recent shooting at the Stuart Flats complex in Griffith.
The current public housing system has created stressful environments for its primarily high-needs residents, who may be exiting the criminal justice system, suffering from substance problems or trying to support a large family, says ACT Council of Social Services director Susan Helyar.
''The biggest challenge to public housing is there has been a move to make it only available to people with high needs,'' she said.
''There is less capacity in those communities for building strength.''
Ms Helyar said the complexes should be adapted to host a combination of public housing, community housing and private rental tenants.
''Where we'd want to go in the future is mixed use,'' she said.
''In the redevelopment of the Fitzroy high-rise public housing estates, mixed tenancies have been successful … CHC Affordable Housing has built the City Edge in O'Connor that has successfully operated for 10 years that integrates social housing, community housing and open-market tenancies and buyers. They are looking to replicate this model in other places in Canberra.''
Mixed developments could attract private renters despite the stigma associated with low-income housing, Ms Helyar said, as well as provide an option for those excluded from the very high rent market in Canberra.
She said such communities could work well when safety or other social problems in public housing were addressed with good tenancy support and access to the services people need.
''We need to both support people in public housing to build positive, safe communities, and we need to address the failure of the Canberra housing market to provide housing options for people on income support and other low incomes,'' she said.
''Nothing drives neighbourhood tension and dissatisfaction like the feeling you are stuck in circumstances you don't control and have no way out of.''
The creation of smaller sites could also be a future option, Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury said. ''We do want to move away from the concentrations of social disadvantage.
''Rather than having just public housing tenants on the same site, we have a broader mix of tenants.''
Mr Rattenbury said the government had no specific plans regarding the Griffith site yet.