The ACT government's decision to boost its commitment to the provision of low cost and public housing in the Territory is as welcome as it is overdue.
Of particular interest is the stipulation at least 60 of the 350 dwellings to be created as part of the City Hill land release at the southern end of Northbourne Avenue be set aside for low cost housing.
A further five will be earmarked for public and community housing; a welcome development given the loss of inner city public housing from the development of the light rail.
The City Hill announcement comes on the back of new targets for affordable, public and community housing across the Territory in 2019-20. These are well up on last year with 18.2 per cent, or 628, of the 3,440 residential sites to be aimed at low-income earners.
The 2018-2019 figure was 13.5 per cent, itself well up on the 3.5 per cent allocation in 2017-2018.
The fresh commitment to ensuring affordable housing options are available is vital given the escalation in housing prices across the ACT over the past decade. It shows an acknowledgement of the difficulty facing lower-income families trying to get a start in the capital.
In addition to appartments there is also a desperate need for affordable freestanding house blocks, especially in areas with good access to schools and health services, to meet the needs of those young families for years.
While there are many excellent reasons, particularly in a jurisdiction as land poor as this one apparently is, to promote apartment based living, a "one size fits all" approach to housing supply. While there are significant new areas in areas like the Molonglo valley that will meet some of this need, we need to also be aware that failure to continue providing affordable land risks pushing ACT workers over the border.
Canberra has been one of the strongest property markets in the country for some years now.
We did not suffer the price falls experienced in Sydney and Melbourne and strong population growth in the coming years will continue to put pressure on property prices.
We are even seeing real estate developments in Braidwood which are being targeted at Canberrans
While this has been great for existing homeowners, particularly those in established suburbs, it is not so good for those who are just entering the market for the first time or who are trying to upgrade from an apartment to a home on its own block of their own.
Unless more can be done to take individual buyer preferences into account and to meet the demands of the market there is a real risk a generation of Canberra parents will be pushed across the border into more affordable developments in Googong, Queanbeyan and Murrumbateman where it is possible to buy a house for the price of a unit in Canberra.
We are even seeing real estate developments in Braidwood which are being targeted at Canberrans.
Nobody will emerge the winner if this trend is allowed to continue unchecked.
The ACT loses rate revenue while still having to provide services and the displaced house buyers are stuck with long and expensive commutes.
It should be possible to offer people what they want much closer to home. Noone pretends this will be an easy task - it requires balancing the risks of sprawl, ensuring quality is maintained all while keeping a lid on prices to make them a real option for those on lower incomes.
There is more to be done, but this week's announcement is a definite step in the right direction.