YWCA Canberra’s plans to build 10 homes in Ainslie for older women and women escaping domestic and family violence was approved last week by ACT Planning.
Purchased by the not-for-profit from the ACT government more than 30 years ago, the site has hosted numerous community facilities throughout the years but was determined to be of better use as housing for vulnerable women, says YWCA Canberra CEO Frances Crimmins.
The project will include 10 homes – down from the originally proposed 16.
The houses have been designed around the needs of its future occupants, says Ms Crimmins.
Consultation with the residents of YMCA’s existing homes highlighted the need for ease of mobility as well as amenities such as sofa beds for guests, she says.
Ms Crimmins hopes the first occupants will move in by late-2022, early-2030, but with a backlog of construction work in the capital due to shortages, she expects there will be delays.
Canberra is experiencing a shortfall of at least 3000 social housing dwellings, she says.
Many women are being supported by the charity’s other programs to continue living in their home while others have been forced into temporary housing, such as tents.
“In December 2020, there were more than 1000 women in Canberra registered with Specialist Housing Services. The majority were homeless or in housing crisis due to domestic or family violence,” she says.
“We currently have women in our housing services who are in their 80s and 90s. No one wants to see anyone’s grandmother in such dire circumstances.”
Following the approval, Mental Health Community Coalition ACT CEO Bec Cody congratulated the YWCA and said that alongside member organisation ACT Shelter, they would support the project.
“Homelessness and mental health are strongly interrelated, and prioritisation of housing for vulnerable groups leads to improved wellbeing in as little as one month,” she says.
ACT Shelter CEO Travis Gilbert said: “With median area market rent in Canberra’s inner north exceeding the base rate of the age pension, it is critical that experienced housing providers like the YWCA are able to step in and deliver housing solutions for older women in Canberra to ensure they are afforded a dignified retirement”