CSIRO locks in affordable housing plans for field station site
Published on 24 April in the Canberra Times. Written by Tom McIlroy.
The CSIRO will explore innovative technology, finance and governance models to effectively incorporate affordable housing options into the planned redevelopment of its Ginninderra Field Station.
About 30 experts from universities, social service groups, charities, and banks joined a think tank event on affordable housing options for the 700-hectare site earlier this month, advising the research organisation to use technology to reduce the cost of living on the site and to incorporate place-making and a master plan to manage affordable housing.
CSIRO general manager for business and infrastructure services Mark Wallis said the event heard a range of opinions from government, corporate and charity perspectives, including about how best to help low income earners and casual and contract employees find suitable housing in Canberra.
“What came out of the discussion was that we need to deliver affordable housing that best meets the needs of people who need those options, including innovative financing and governance options.
“The lending institutions who were in the room said that could be achieved. There’s only a couple of mortgage risk and underwriting companies in Australia and so they’re the people we need to start working with to understand the challenges for them to become part of this arrangement,” he said.
The planning comes as the CSIRO waits for federal government approvals on required zoning changes. Once approved, a consortium or joint-development partner will be engaged for the redevelopment project.
Established in 1960, the field station replaced a research site near the Dickson shops. The area has been home to the development of a range of projects including novel grains and agricultural systems. The field station sits on the ACT-NSW border, framed by the Barton Highway, William Slim Drive, Owen Dixon Drive and Kuringa Drive.
Some residents near the field station oppose changing the land’s zoning classification from hills, ridges and buffer spaces to urban area.
Mr Wallis said delivery of different housing types would be available on the site, suiting different ages, lifestyles, and family compositions.
“Motivation for having a house is also a factor as well,” he said. “Is it that they’re after affordable rental or is it that they want affordable housing ownership?”
Design of houses and public spaces was raised by participants, as well as incorporation of CSIRO research outcomes.
“When you start talking about a development such as Ginninderra, often it brings out people in the community to talk who may not necessarily live within that development. We need to start identifying some stakeholder groups and people who are potentially keen to live here,” Mr Wallis said.
Planners could consider allocating blocks of land and specific areas of the site as designated affordable housing supply, with the cost in part covered by higher value sales in other areas. Ballots or other allocation methods will be considered.
Mr Wallis said affordability in perpetuity was also an important consideration.
“On the day we didn’t quite come up with the agreed way to move forward in this area. Lending institutions like to see capital growth, part of that was the opportunity in financial windfalls for individuals,” he said.
“It’s really difficult because you don’t want to hold somebody back, but you also don’t want to make it hard for the next person?”
A community information session is planned in coming months to give local residents and other stakeholders with the chance to receive an update on the project and to suggest ideas and ask questions.