Controversial Dickson block to become low-cost supportive housing
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Controversial Dickson block to become low-cost supportive housing

A controversial northside plot of land, currently under investigation, will be developed into public housing.

The block, known as Section 72, sits between the Dickson pool and the Majura playing fields on Antill Street.

The block, known as Section 72, sits between the Dickson pool and the Majura playing fields on Antill Street.

The block, known as Section 72, sits between the Dickson pool and the Majura playing fields on Antill Street.

Photo: Supplied

The ACT government has announced plans to build the territory's second Common Ground project on the site. It purchased blocks 6 and 25 in 2012.

Part of the plot is currently in the sights of ACT Auditor-General, which last month announced it would probe a complex swap deal between the Barr government and the Dickson Tradies Club in late 2014.

The first Common Ground project was completed in 2015 in Gungahlin.

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Minister for Planing and Land Management Mick Gentleman said it was a fantastic opportunity for the community to help share urban renewal in Dickson.

"The ACT government has committed to deliver new public housing and a new Common Ground project within Section 72, providing new homes on the light rail corridor and close to services," Mr Gentleman said.

He said the government would work with the community and stakeholders to explore options for the future of the site.

Common Ground is an experiment in low-cost supportive housing, which combines accommodation and on-site support services within a stable community to support people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerability in Canberra.

The government said the block was large to combine a mix of uses, including community facilities and private homes, in addition to the planned social housing.

The precinct is within easy walking distance of Dickson shops, Dickson pool and the first stage of light rail.

Minister for Housing and Suburban Development Yvette Berry said the second Common Ground would deliver a key 2016 Labor election commitment.

"Alongside the planning conversation I will be bringing together the views of the Common Ground board and the housing and homelessness sector and also drawing on consultations around the recent housing summit to decide on the best model for this Common Ground," Ms Berry said.

"The nature of this facility, the different needs of people who live there and the way services are provided will also influence more detailed building design and consultation."

The block is currently zoned for leisure and accommodation, which means the government will first need to vary the territory plan before proceeding.

The deal between the club and the now-defunct Land Development Agency saw the government pay the CFMEU-linked club $3.55 million for a block of land on Rosevear Place, housing the local CFMEU branch office.

In return, the Tradies club agreed to buy the carpark beside its premises for $3.2 million, and the government also paid the club $49,500 for the nearby old Downer Club site on Hawdon Street.

While the government has paid the club for the Rosevear Place block and old Downer Club site, settlement on the carpark land was delayed until the redevelopment of a nearby carpark into a Coles and apartment block was completed.

The government also allowed the CFMEU to remain rent-free in its Rosevear Place premises for 42 months, due to the delayed settlement for the carpark block and the cost of maintaining the land.

Auditor-General Dr Maxine Cooper last month announced she had begun a "performance audit", which would examine whether the government's tender process for the sale of that specific block was effectively conducted.

The government was unable to give an estimated cost of the second Common Ground project or the timeframe to build it.

Mr Gentleman said he would like to hear from residents, businesses and community service providers within Section 72 about their ideas for the rest of the site.

Michael Inman is a courts reporter for The Canberra Times

Han Nguyen reports on property for The Canberra Times. She joined the Times in 2017 after working as a breaking news reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.