ACT public housing taskforce is now building homes for Defence Housing
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ACT public housing taskforce is now building homes for Defence Housing

The ACT government's public housing taskforce is building homes to sell to Defence Housing Australia on public housing sites for "financial efficiency", but the government has refused to say how much money it will get from the sales.

The taskforce, which was originally set up to build new public housing to replace over 1000 public housing units, has begun building 15 townhouses in Gungahlin town centre and 18 townhouses in Taylor to sell to the federal government-controlled housing company.

The taskforce is tearing down old public housing like Stuart Flats, but is now building homes for DHA as well.

The taskforce is tearing down old public housing like Stuart Flats, but is now building homes for DHA as well.Credit:Karleen Minney.

Housing Minister Yvette Berry has said the decision to sell what were originally expected to be homes for public housing tenants was about creating a better social mix of residents on the public housing sites.

The deal to sell the 33 townhouses to DHA comes at a time when average rents in Canberra are among the highest in the country, and ACT public housing is going only to those facing the most dire circumstances.

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Ms Berry has been working on a new affordable housing strategy for the ACT for more than 18 months. It is expected to be revealed at some point in the next five months, though the government will not name a specific date.

Asked why the public housing taskforce expanded its remit to build homes to sell to a third party, rather than only continue building homes for some of Canberra's most vulnerable people, Ms Berry's spokeswoman said the deal had also been done for financial efficiency.

Housing Minister Yvette Berry said the taskforce had developed significant expertise in building new homes.

Housing Minister Yvette Berry said the taskforce had developed significant expertise in building new homes.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

"From the ACT government's point of view, the partnership was an opportunity for financial efficiency in the construction process and to support DHA in its mission to house Defence personnel and their families," she said in a statement.

Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur, who has been urging the government for several months to increase its affordable housing targets and build more public housing, said the minor party backed achieving a better social mix.

She said that if "financial efficiency" meant the money would be fully reinvested in public housing, it should lead to a net increase in public housing stock, which Canberra desperately needed.

But it is unclear exactly what the "financial efficiency" was that was created through the taskforce's deal with DHA, and the government has refused to explain how much revenue it expects to bring in through the deal, or whether the funds will go to more public housing or Treasury.

The government did say the 33 properties the taskforce was building for DHA were in addition to the 1288 dwellings it is building to replace public housing that has been, and continues to be, torn down around the city.

The DHA houses will be built alongside the public housing dwellings being built on Block 1, Section 248 and Block 4, Section 249, Gungahlin town centre east and 32 dwellings Block 3, Section 37 and Block 9, Section 39 in Taylor.

There would be seven townhouses for DHA alongside 32 public housing dwellings in a multi-unit apartment block on each of the two Gungahlin sites, and 32 public housing dwellings in a multi-unit apartment block on Block 3, Section 37 Taylor. There are 26 public housing dwellings in another multi-unit apartment block on Block 9, Section 39, Taylor.

    Ms Berry's spokeswoman said the taskforce had developed significant expertise in building new homes under the program and DHA signing up to buy the townhouses was a strong endorsement of the taskforce's work.

    But she said the taskforce had no further plans to sell any taskforce-built homes to any private companies, emphasising  DHA was a Commonwealth government business enterprise.

    Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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