Letters / Flats are not the place for children

MORE than 50 years ago, when we were married, we moved into a two-storey block of flats reasonably close to Melbourne’s CBD.

When our first child arrived, I quickly realised that the flats were not an ideal place to bring up a young family. With some financial difficulty and thanks to a credit union and a building society we were able to purchase a modest, three-bedroom, one-bathroom house on a good-sized block some 22 kilometres out from the CBD.

I resolved never to again reside in a dwelling without a backyard.

On moving to Canberra in the ’80s we borrowed again to purchase a detached house on a decent-sized block of land in West Belconnen. Today our two great-grandsons really enjoy running around safely playing in our backyard.

I totally agree with Jon Stanhope’s views on the poor housing choices now available in Canberra (ACT government snubs Canberra’s housing hope”, CN, February 1) and note that many young couples are now choosing more affordable, detached housing in surrounding NSW. I wish Mr Stanhope was still our chief minister.

John House, via email

Jon for Opposition Leader!

READING Jon Stanhope’s informative and constructive column in CityNews (“ACT government snubs Canberra’s housing hopes”, February 1), prompts me to suggest that he would make an ideal Leader of the Opposition in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Let us hope that he seeks Liberal Party endorsement at the next ACT election.

John Milne, Chapman

Land out of reach for battlers

THE feature article by Jon Stanhope (“ACT government snubs Canberra’s housing hopes”, February 1) will have interested many. It is the second or third article by him on the same theme.

The present ACT Labor government reflects the opinion of Kim Beazley. He said: “Labor used to be represented by the cream of the working class. Now it’s run by the dregs of the middle class”.

Over the last two decades our public housing stock has decreased by over 3000 units. Where land was available for over-the-counter sales it is now predominantly bought by land auctions, which are dominated by developers. This has more than trebled the price of land. This, in turn, has put land out of the reach of the battlers. The actual price of building a house has only moved in line with inflation.

We should move to over-the-counter sales for those on a moderate income. The land should be made available to them on a low-interest, long-term loan.

The ACT has the second highest number of homeless people of any Australian capital. St Vinnies and other like services are being pushed to the limit.

One representative of a church organisation currently helping around 20 homeless people said: “The ACT government does not help with food. The only service we get from them is a free needle exchange.”

The future cost of not helping people into housing will be high. Every one of us deserves a comfortable place they can call home.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

Stanhope should know better

THERE always seems to be another opportunity for Jon Stanhope to scold his successors in the ACT Labor government, through the medium of the local press.

In the most recent (“Government snubs Canberra’s housing hopes”, CN, February 1) he claims that the survey commissioned from Winton Sustainable Research Strategies undercuts the government’s policies on housing.

The report states that 85.5 per cent of the Canberra population currently live in a detached house, while 84.2 per cent would prefer to live in a detached house “in an ideal world”. You would think that this suggests that the balance is pretty right, but to Mr Stanhope it points to the opposite conclusion.

Mr Stanhope seems to deplore the fact that housing choices are primarily dictated by affordability. Given that housing tends to be a positional good, this is hardly surprising. And how his complaints fit with his frequently stated commitment to affordable housing, heaven knows.

He concludes with a completely unsubstantiated statement that the government has a “pervasive neo-liberal ideology” and an implication that it is involved in a secret conspiracy.

I have no problem with Mr Stanhope’s record as chief minister. But his experience should lead him to know better than constantly impugn the motives of those who took the job after him.

Helmut Simon, Watson

Dangers of bushfire complacency

THE anniversary of the Canberra bushfire of January 18, 2003, has just passed and our local daily paper did a reasonable job of covering some victims’ recovery from that disaster.

However, what the paper did not do was to cover action designed to prevent or mitigate future fires despite my request for it to do so.

A number of people who lost their homes in the fires contacted me to explain that they were upset by the suggestion from Joe Murphy, of the ACT Rural Fire Service, that there was “complacency among residents”. This is so, but numbers of residents who lost homes are definitely not complacent and are more concerned about complacency by government and its authorities.

When I gave talks to various groups of ANU Masters students studying disasters, I provided a raft of examples where complacency flourished among the government and its authorities ranging from the lack of suitable buffer zones on urban fringes, lack of fire-resistant housing on those same fringes, no improvement to electricity and water supply in impacted areas, right through to planned housing for the aged in bushfire designated zones. It would be as well for Mr Murphy to take a good look at these areas of concern and address the complacency being shown by the Barr government.

Ric Hingee, Duffy


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