Building better places for people

The ACT Government’s urban renewal agenda is essential if we are to enhance the vibrancy and vitality of our city.

Last week, the ACT Government submitted three development applications to demolish 1,288 outdated public housing units, including the majority of the buildings in the Northbourne Housing Precinct and the Bega and Allawah Flats on the East of the city.  A development application has also been submitted for the redevelopment of the Currong and Allawah apartments.

This is the most significant redevelopment of public housing in the history of Canberra – and one that the property industry applauds.

We agree with the Chief Minister that these sites are an “an eyesore”.  They are also unhealthy.  Constructed at a time when little thought was given to energy efficiency or indoor environment quality, many of these buildings are riddled with mould and asbestos.  They need a small fortune spent to upgrade them to meet contemporary building standards.

The property industry is committed to preserving our prized heritage buildings.  We do not, however, support spending money on buildings that are well past their use-by date when we could be spending it on places that meet the needs of Canberrans in the 21st century.

While heritage experts may not like the ACT Government’s decision to demolish these buildings, they must ask themselves: would they want to live in there?  The answer, I suspect, is no. What may provide some comfort though is that the Government will work with the Gallery of Australian Design to record the area’s heritage with the ground floor of Lyneham Tower expected to house a new heritage museum for the area – a move that many in our community would likely applaud.

We have an opportunity to invest in new public housing that improves the quality of life of our most vulnerable citizens, while also renewing areas of our inner city that desperately need a facelift.

Writing in the Financial Times recently, global trendsetter and publisher of Monocle magazine, Tyler Brûlée, observed that our CBD currently leaves a lot to be desired.  “With seemingly every other shopfront available for lease, a lack of proper landscaping and no shortage of well-paid civil servants and diplomats, a smart developer should seize on a stretch of streetfront and kick off an urban renewal initiative,” he said.

The ACT Government’s agenda support the construction of better public housing and kick-start revitalisation efforts that get our city’s heart beating once more.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia