Public housing tenants on Northbourne Avenue are likely to be relocated by mid-2016, as the ACT Government pushes forward with the redevelopment of the light rail corridor.
Public housing renewal taskforce members met residents of Owen Flats on Friday afternoon and told them tenants would be moved out in a staged process between now and late 2015. But information provided to The Canberra Times by housing minister Yvette Berry's office gave a more conservative timeframe, saying most tenants of the flats would begin moving in the first half of 2016.
"My priority and the priority of the ACT Government will always be the residents of the Owen Flats – ensuring we have an open and informative conversation with them. We want the needs of each tenant to be met with as little disruption as possible during the renewal process," Mr Berry said.
The Owen Flats are part of the government's housing renewal project that is expected to affect up to 1288 older public housing units. Other affected properties include Bega Court in Reid, Currong appartments and Allawah Court in Braddon; Dickson flats and connected vacant land on Northbourne Avenue; Dickson Garden flats; Lyneham and DeBurgh flats; the Northbourne flats in Braddon and Turner, the Red Hill flats, Strathgordon Court in Lyons and Stuart flats in Griffith. Several of these are already vacant.
The information provided to residents raised the possibility that those tenants paying market rates may face higher rents if they move to properties with a higher value, although those currently paying rates based on their income would not be affected.
A number of residents have raised concerns with Ms Berry's office over the uncertainty of when they would be moved and their homes demolished.
Ms Berry said construction of replacement housing would be completed by the first half of next year, subject to planning approvals, but it was difficult to say how many residents would be offered properties in their preferred locations. She also said heritage protections placed on some of the sites the government wants to demolish would not stop the relocation of residents.
"The government is still considering the options available regarding the Heritage Council's decision," Ms Berry said.
Eighty-four-year-old Laurel Dakin who has lived in the Owen Flats for more than 30 years said she had already begun packing, and would resist any attempts to have her moved to an aged care facility.
"I like it here, you've got the buses across the road and I'm close to anywhere I want to go. I think a lot of people in these flats don't want to move, and neither do I.
"We've been given so much information, first we were told we wouldn't move until 2016, then we heard it'd be the end of this winter. Just like everyone else we'd like to have more of a clue when we're going, that's why the place is so disrupted now, people want those answers," Ms Dakin said.