Common Ground housing project set to open in Gungahlin
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Common Ground housing project set to open in Gungahlin

Final works continue on the Common Ground project, Canberra's experiment in low-cost supportive public housing, ahead of planned completion this month.

The state-of-the-art housing development on Gungahlin's The Valley Avenue will draw on international models in supporting people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerability in Canberra. It will combine quality accommodation and on-site support services within a stable community.

The ACT government is getting ready to open the Common Ground public housing facility in Gungahlin.

The ACT government is getting ready to open the Common Ground public housing facility in Gungahlin.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

First developed as a model in New York in the 1990s, Common Ground includes 20 one-bedroom units for people experiencing homelessness in the community and a further 20 units available as affordable rental properties.

As residents move in during a staged occupancy this year, tenancy and building management services will be provided by Argyle Community Housing. Residents will also benefit from support services provided by Northside Community Service.

Ikea's customer support manager Leanne Wilding and recovery manager Saif Islam prepare furniture for the Common Ground public housing facility.

Ikea's customer support manager Leanne Wilding and recovery manager Saif Islam prepare furniture for the Common Ground public housing facility.

Photo: Jamila Toderas
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Builders, decorators and landscape gardeners are continuing to work on site this week, as Housing Minister Yvette Berry invited members of the public from across Canberra to join an open day at the site on Saturday from 11am to 2pm.

The ACT contributed $7.5 million to the project, along with $4 million from the Commonwealth government. The site, worth more than $2 million, was provided by the territory and was chosen for its proximity to the Gungahlin town centre.

A ground floor common area will include a large kitchen and living areas, computers, entertainment and administration facilities. An outside barbecue area and eating space is complemented by a community garden and other facilities. Each unit includes larger than average living areas, 6-star rating construction features and appliances.

Selection assessments for residents are under way, including targeting the most vulnerable chronically homeless people, including those who have been homeless continuously for six months or more or who have experienced multiple episodes of primary homelessness over a 12-month period.

Yvette Berry.

Yvette Berry.

Photo: Elesa Kurtz

"Common Ground is about building community and building real housing support within the development," Ms Berry said.

"It won't just provide housing facilities, but will also help with giving people a chance to find employment and the skills they need for work so that they can move away from homelessness and learn how to maintain a tenancy and keep a roof over their heads. It's more than just government services, its about integrating in and providing strong community."

Ms Berry praised businesses and philanthropic partners including Ikea, which will furnish 20 apartments and supply the ground floor common areas and offices with furniture and other products.

Canberra's Domayne store donated 20 large-screen televisions and 20 microwaves.

"This project has come from a group of people who got together and formed a committee to start campaigning the ACT and federal governments to build this style of housing," Ms Berry said.

"I think we're shifting away from government being responsible for providing all of these services. It's about business, it's about community and it's about philanthropic services as well. I hope Common Ground in Gungahlin will lead to future support from all of these areas to help us build community and give people a crack at happiness."

Visit commongroundcanberra.org.au for more information.

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.