Labor promises homeless, affordable accommodation on former Downer Club site
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Labor promises homeless, affordable accommodation on former Downer Club site

Labor has promised to use the former Downer Club site in Dickson to expand a program of low-cost supportive housing for the homeless and vulnerable.

The government purchased the land from the CFMEU-linked Tradies Club in February, as part of a complicated land deal involving two other sites nearby.

The Common Ground model combines a mix of affordable units and housing for the homeless with support services and a stable community.

The Common Ground model combines a mix of affordable units and housing for the homeless with support services and a stable community.

The site of the former club, which included an old observatory, has remained disused since a fire in 2010.

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Labor has now announced it wants to build another Common Ground development at the site, similar to the complex already built in Gungahlin.

The Common Ground model, first pioneered in New York in the 1990s and pushed for here by the Greens, combines a mix of affordable units and housing for the homeless with support services and a stable community.

The Gungahlin site features 20 one-bedroom units for those experiencing homelessness, and 20 affordable rental apartments.

The tenants are helped by a range of support programs offered by Northside Community Services.

Labor says a similar project at Dickson would cost $16 million, and would be subject to "extensive community consultation" and careful design to ensure it "fit in with the surrounding built and natural environments".

"One of the great strengths of Common Ground in Gungahlin was the way it came together with strong community support and many generous business contributions," Housing Minister Yvette Berry said.

"We know this generosity will emerge again for a second Common Ground and Labor looks forward to working with the community on this new project," Ms Berry said.

They are also promising to build a second housing complex for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at a cost of $4.4 million, similar to a facility already operating in Kambah.

Labor has also pledged to continue its massive program of renewing Canberra's ageing public housing stock, continue reforms to reduce stamp duty, and restructure the Land Development Agency to help it focus on affordable greenfield land release.

It has also pledged to develop a housing strategy.

The Greens are also planning to announce a homelessness package, which has as its centrepiece a $12.5 million pledge to build housing for people with chronic mental health issues.

The 2011 census showed 1785 ACT residents were homeless, and more recent data showed up to 85 per cent of those experiencing homelessness had a mental illness.

The Greens' facility would include individual housing units for Canberrans with a mental illness, who would be given quality care and support. It would work with the not-for-profit MyHome in Canberra, which has been working on the concept for more than two years.

Greens candidate Veronica Wensing said it would build on the success of the Common Ground project, which had been driven by Greens leader Shane Rattenbury.

"We will also put $6 million back into homelessness and specialist services to help them cope with demand – and deal with cuts from the federal budget," Ms Wensing said.

The Greens say they would also establish a homelessness summit, boost housing supports for those who have experienced trauma, and increase funding for women's crisis accommodation services.

Christopher Knaus is a reporter for The Canberra Times.

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