ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry says she is frustrated more than over 30 units at a Kaleen social and affordable housing complex were left empty for 15 months.
A mixed-tenure model was adopted at Toolang, a 66-unit housing complex, where half the units are used for public housing and the other half are affordable rentals. CatholicCare was announced as the preferred tender in June last year.
Ms Berry said she had expressed her frustrations to the public service, but is now satisfied the department has the right model for the complex going forward.
"Once a preferred tenderer was identified there were extended negotiations involving legal advice to ensure the agreement was sustainable and suitable for all parties," she said.
"At every step, I asked that the complex be utilised as much as possible with available and suitable tenants."
Ms Berry said the first tenancies were offered in June 2019, and the final intake of tenants into the complex was impacted by the events of 2020 - smoke, bushfires, hail, and COVID-19.
The ACT Council of Social Service demanded an explanation from Ms Berry over the delays, following a report in The Canberra Times covering revelations from freedom of information documents that affordable housing units were empty while the government negotiated a rental revenue deal.
ACTCOSS chief executive Dr Emma Campbell said it was alarming that the affordable housing units in the complex were vacant during a housing crisis.
She said the community deserved a full explanation from Ms Berry.
"The ACT has a housing crisis. Research shows that the ACT has a shortfall of around 3000 social houses, while almost 1600 people in the ACT are homeless," she said.
"We need to urgently understand why there was such a long delay in making these properties available to vulnerable Canberrans and their families."
An ACT government spokeswoman said the rentals were left empty as officials determined a leasing model to ensure the model remained sustainable into the future.
The Canberra Times first reported on the empty units in June last year.
Ms Berry previously addressed the delay in the ACT Legislative Assembly last year, saying she was disappointed by the time taken on the tender.
She also told The Canberra Times one reason a tender had not been finalised by the time construction had been completed was because the government was still considering the mixed-tenure model.
"When that complex was first built it wasn't considered as being a model that was mixed with affordable and social housing, and then we had been talking with Housing ACT about that site and the number of dwellings that were there," she said.