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The last month has been a busy one for Greater Canberra, as we’ve responded to the ACT Budget and the Government’s plans for new housing and infrastructure spending. So for this newsletter, we thought we’d highlight some of our recent public advocacy around affordable housing in the ACT.

The Government announced 30,000 new homes in the ACT Budget. But will our planning system allow them to be built?’

Greater Canberra has welcomed the Government’s announcement that it aims to deliver 30,000 new homes in the city over the next five years. However, that’s almost twice as many homes than are planned for in the indicative land release program, and the ACT’s current approach to new housing supply relies on oft-delayed new greenfield and brownfield projects. As we said in our media release on the issue, these plans will be put at risk if the Government doesn’t implement planning reforms that unlock more housing in Canberra’s inner suburbs.

Greater Canberra’s 2022-23 Budget submission called on the ACT Government to allow unit-titled duplexes on up to 60,000 existing RZ1-zoned properties, and upzone areas near rapid bus routes to allow more townhouses and small apartment buildings. Similar reforms implemented in Auckland in 2016 were later shown to have almost doubled new housing construction in the city. These are the kinds of reforms needed to achieve this lofty goal!

Three reforms to speed up the construction of social housing

Greater Canberra has welcomed the increase in public housing investment announced in the ACT Budget. However, while there’s a broad consensus that Canberra needs more public housing, planning restrictions often mean the Government is struggling to build it fast enough. That’s why we’re calling for three policy changes to speed up public housing construction:

  1. Stop the nuisance lawsuits. Currently, a huge number of the ACT Government’s public housing projects are being held up in ACAT by wealthy neighbours. These cases occur because we allow “merits review” of approval decisions made by Canberra planners. But we don’t have to - we already exempt builds in city centres from these kinds of review.’

  2. Allow more townhouses in inner-suburban neighbourhoods. A significant chunk of public housing land is zoned RZ1, which means you can easily build a two-story mansion, but it’s hard to build a two-story, four-unit townhouse of exactly the same size. This means Housing ACT is often stuck trying to fit ever more single-story units on a dwindling supply of land. It’s time to embrace the medium-density social homes that have been so successfully built out in places like Vienna.

  3. Stop prioritising cars over people. Current minimum parking laws mean that a large part of new multi-unit public housing builds are taken up with concrete driveways and parking spots. This is the case even though there are many public housing tenants who don’t drive, and many publicly-owned blocks of land right next to rapid transit routes. Let’s use that space to house more people.

These are just a few policy ideas, and there’s many more out there from other community housing organisations. But they’re ones that we believe the Government should adopt if they’re serious about building more social housing quickly.

How you can get involved

We’ve been sharing pictures of density done well on social media to show the kind of development Canberra needs to become a sustainable, affordable city. There are great examples across the city, so please share yours! Send a pic to us via email, share it on our Discord, or DM us on one of our social platforms, and we’ll reshare it. We’ll even be able to feature it on our newly-launched Instagram page: check us out!

We’re also always looking to get members and supporters on-board to help us in a range of projects including:

  • Helping us build connections with like-minded organisations

  • Writing submissions in support of new housing projects and planning reforms

  • Building our base of members and supporters

If you’re keen to get involved or get in touch, feel free to send us an email, contact us via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or join up as a member on our website.