ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has used his "call in" powers to fast-track the approval of the territory's second Common Ground housing project in Dickson.
The minister's intervention will mean the government-backed six-storey, 40-unit affordable housing complex will be built on the Section 72 site and the project can bypass the normal planning process.
The ACT Greens have called for the decision to be reversed, expressing "outrage and dismay" that Mr Gentleman has chosen to override "proper assessment, scrutiny and community feedback".
Under the Common Ground model, half the units will be used to house those experiencing homelessness and the rest will be used as affordable rentals. It will be the second Common Ground housing model in the territory, after Gungahlin.
The Dickson Common Ground project was a Labor election promise in 2016.
The "call in" approval will mean the project can only be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Mr Gentleman said the intervention was necessary to provide "certainty" to the vulnerable Canberrans who will be housed in the development.
Asked to explain what was threatening to delay the project, such as the prospect of a legal challenge or parliamentary inquiry, he said: "all of the above".
"The decision that I have made today is in the best interest of all Canberrans," Mr Gentleman said.
"I think it is important that Canberrans show that they want to look after the most vulnerable people in our community and that is the highlight point of our decision."
As part of the approval, before works commence a qualified archaeologist would be required to undertake an archival recording for any surface remnants of the original Canberra aerodrome. There is a push under way for the site to be heritage-listed.
Mr Gentleman has also guaranteed the protection of a corridor of trees south of the site. Fears the trees could be axed to make way for a new road were expressed in dozens of submissions to consultation on rezoning of the Common Ground block.
Mr Gentleman last used his "call in" power in July 2019 to approve the contentious Dickson Coles project, which has since stalled. The supermarket giant has blamed the coronavirus pandemic for the project's failure to get off the ground.
Both the Common Ground and Coles proposals are tied to the government's controversial Dickson land swap.
In 2014, the ACT government sold the car park next to the Dickson Tradies to the club for $3.5 million and the government bought the Section 72 site from the CFMEU-linked Tradies club for $3.9 million.
Settlement of the $3.5 million Tradies club sale won't be completed until the Coles development is finished.
Mr Gentleman has also used the powers to approve Manuka Oval's media centre, the demolition of public housing blocks on Northbourne Avenue and the Ngunnawal bush healing farm.
Shadow planning minister Mark Parton said the community should have been given a genuine chance to have their say.
"Is it any surprise that just months out from an election ACT Labor is dodging normal planning processes and bypassing community consultation," he said.
While the Greens said they supported the Common Ground model, the Greens planning spokeswoman Caroline Le Couteur slammed Mr Gentleman's latest decision to "call in" the development.
"Canberrans will be outraged to learn that an ACT Labor Minister has decided, of his own accord, to ram through development decisions in our city - with only the pretence of consulting with the local community," Ms Le Couteur said.
"Controversial development should see more community engagement, not less."
Housing Minister Yvette Berry hoped that Mr Gentleman's decision to fast track approval of the development wouldn't "blemish" the project.
Ms Berry said the Dickson development would target single women and young families, which were an increasingly vulnerable cohort.
"This is a really important step forward to supporting those people who really need a hand up, particularly now," she said.
Common Ground chair Stephen Bartos welcomed the decision, saying it would ensure that more people experiencing chronic homeless would be supported.
Dickson Residents' Group convener Jane Goffman said she had expected the development would be called in but was disappointed at the outcome.
"The planners have done their best to address the deficiencies in the plans but the outcome is extremely disappointing. Ministerial call-in powers exist as a last resort, and are not a panacea," she said.
"There are plenty of valid concerns raised that have not been addressed and I find that troubling for all sorts of reasons."