Public housing in line of fire
ACT forensic police officers at the scene. Photo: Karleen Minney
The troubled Stuart Flats public housing complex in Canberra's inner-south is at least a decade away from redevelopment, despite its history of drugs, crime and poverty.
The complex was in the spotlight again on Wednesday after a shooting at one of the units.
ACT Policing said on Wednesday night that officers investigating an unlawful shooting in Griffith earlier in the day were interviewing a 27-year-old man. He was taken into custody after police executed a search warrant on a Deakin home where a shotgun was found in a roof cavity.
The bullet hole. Photo: Karleen Minney
Police are waiting on forensics to confirm if the shotgun is linked to the Griffith shooting.
Three mature cannabis plants were also seized.
The shooting was the latest in a long history of incidents that has given the flats a reputation as one of Canberra's most concentrated pockets of disadvantage.
In the past six months, according to ACT Policing, officers have been answering calls to the 147 flats at the apartments once every two days.
Several people were sleeping just metres from where the round was fired through the window of a flat in Block Four of the complex in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but said they did not hear the shot.
Police were called to Light Street about 2am, shortly after the gun was fired, sending a round through the window of a ground-floor flat.
The shot went through the window, through closed curtains, and into the wall on the opposite side of the unit.
The attack has renewed calls for Stuart Flats to be torn down and its tenants relocated, but the complex has not even been listed for redevelopment as part of the government policy to ''salt and pepper'' public housing throughout the suburbs.
The former head of the Inner South Community Council, Kevin Gill, said the flats were a public housing failure and should be sold.
''The money the government could get from redeveloping that area would more than compensate for them providing extra housing mixed into the suburban areas or other areas of Canberra,'' he said.
But while the ACT Government's long-term goal of clearing ageing complexes such as Stuart is well under way, several other projects are way ahead of the Griffith property in the queue for urban renewal. The government's housing policy frankly admits that ageing ''multi-unit properties'' (MUPs) such as Stuart have high vacancy rates, high rates of tenants refusing to live there or trying to get out, and create concentrations of social disadvantage.
Several major redevelopments north of the lake are in the planning stages but they are some way from the beginning of building work. Departmental officials admitted quietly on Wednesday that it would be 10 years at least before concrete plans for Stuart were considered .
In recent years, the redevelopment of two once notorious public housing trouble spots, Burnie Court in Lyons and Fraser Court in Kingston, have been regarded as successes, clearing complexes known locally as criminal ghettos and generating millions of dollars to buy new and modern housing stock for public tenants.
''Public housing will continue to be 'salt and peppered' across the city with good connections to employment centres, public transport networks, social infrastructure and community centre and family support networks,'' the housing planning policy states.
''This contributes to sustainable tenancies and to a healthy and diverse community.
''It provides housing stability and security for the unemployed, disabled and disadvantaged in the community.
''This helps to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.''
Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury said on Wednesday there were
no specific plans for the complex and the focus was on projects in the inner-north. ''I don't have a specific time frame in mind, but it's certainly not on the immediate radar, no,'' Mr Rattenbury said.
''I haven't had a specific conversation with Housing ACT about Stuart Flats, the focus is on some of the other ones that we've already discussed and there hasn't been a specific government decision at this time.''
Redevelopment plans for the Currong, Bega and Allawah (ABC) apartments in Braddon are in their advanced stages and the designs for the rebirth of the Northbourne Flats in Turner and Braddon have been finalised.
Further north on the avenue, at the Northbourne Precinct in Lyneham and Dickson, work is under way to secure ACT Heritage Council support for the redevelopment of the area.
In other efforts to improve the lives of public housing tenants, ACT Housing has hired three specialist workers to help residents beat their addictions to drugs and alcohol. A pilot program has also been launched to help get long-term unemployed government tenants off the dole queue.