The YMCA has messed up big time on social housing, says “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.
ON Tuesday, September 4, the ACT Administrative Appeals tribunal reversed the ACT government’s decision to approve social housing by the YWCA to be built on land that forms a corner of a cherished Ainslie site – Bill Pye Park.
The locals who fought this case are relieved that it has been halted, but there was little pleasure in stopping a development that was to house people in desperate need for a safe roof over their heads.
They know how this episode was mishandled and recognised that the YWCA and the ACT Labor/Greens coalition could achieve far better outcomes by adopting a transparent people-focused approach to these important social issues.
When the tribunal reversed the approval, they outlined that the YMCA’s development application did not comply with a list of rules and criteria.
It will not surprise many to know that this development had been approved by the ACT government’s planners. The government’s bureaucracy failed to do what they are paid to do – to check the application against their own criteria.
In response to this shameful episode, the YWCA published a fiery article in the local press outlining their reactions to this matter. They did not make it clear that their application was thrown out – and why.
Instead of an informative opinion piece, the YWCA thrashed about with twisted arguments. The best summary of their piece would be that they have an ageist point of view. That is, these issues of violence against women were being enabled by old white men in the tribunal, the bureaucracy and the Ainslie community who had the audacity of making the point that this was an inappropriate use of their community land.
One must ask whether this is now the official opinion of the YWCA.
The YWCA neglected to point out that it was their faulty development application that was the problem. They also failed to mention the manner in which they worked against the local residents and had made statements to cast the residents in a bad light – hinting that these residents must be against special social housing. Really!
The questions are obvious. Who is to take responsibility for putting the error-ridden development application together? Who within the YWCA signed off on such a shonky application? Who in the bureaucracy approved this with the full knowledge that it did not meet their own planning requirements? And should we mention how long the ACT has had a Labor/Greens coalition that repeats at each election how it is going to fix the planning system?
It is definitely not acceptable that community groups have to put in loads of time and emotional efforts to challenge what should never have been approved – let alone should not have been signed off by the YWCA as being a valid proposition.
That September 8 article by the YWCA could have been an opportunity for an honest explanation of how that organisation got this so wrong despite the more than worthwhile cause they were attempting to address – that is now put on hold because of their own actions.
The article provided reasonable opinions on the goings-on federally around the summit on violence against women. But they joined this with their failed development application as if the two matters were the same because of the dreadful old white men mentioned above.
Did the YWCA really mean to use a dog whistle to accuse Ainslie residents of working to stop the work of addressing the issues around violence against women? Because that is how it reads!
Ainslie residents are a diverse lot. The suburb has a range of socio-economic groups and many (about half probably) are women of all ages.
The YWCA and its friends in ACT Housing need to start working honestly with local communities. They need to sit down with residents and try to understand why people do not want to see a loss in community facilities and parklands. Those things that people in crisis housing need to have easy access to.
It is time for a major community effort to stop this ACT government spending big on folly projects and instead allocate funds and resources on a major scale to deal with the shameful crisis of the daily violence against women.
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