Category Archives: Infrastructure projects

Howard Carew States: “We had Affordable Housing from the 1950s to the 1980s”

My father passed away recently and he wrote this article about affordable housing.  I am homeless myself and thinking about eco-villages as it is evident the priority of government is not to serve the people who need the funding the most – the Homeless.  I have written to the current Assistant Minister for Homelessness MP Howarth and  have not received a reply after a few emails.  I have come to understand that the homeless are valued ‘less’ than other citizens.  The whole dogma or religion of economics has permeated our consciousness as the only valid valuing of wealth and human worth.

I was trained in economics and was a market analyst for 10 years.  In later years I became inspired to work on peace education, a Children’s Circle Parliament (non adversarial), clowning (wellbeing) with Dr. Patch Adams and the very important focus and purpose of our lives, Gross National Happiness.

I came to realise that our real worth is in what we give not what we take. It is clear that we are destroying our natural environment with the constant competition around material production and outputs without any conscious awareness of how what we extract, transform and pollute impacts the natural world around us.  We have not learned to live in harmony with life support systems of the planet.  We are essentially ignorant locked into economic paradigms that ultimately do not serve us as a species.

We have not learned to respect and live in harmony with other people and life forms.  We dehumanise, disconnect, rationalise, deny and continue on with practices that are not in the interests of the people or the planet, yet it is a juggernaut where there is no political or market based movement to change.  In fact I would argue they are unable to change and do not have new ideas to facilitate a new way of living and being.

The lack of respect comes from a separation mentality that regards the ecological world as resources and people as labour.  It is a mindset that disconnects from empathy, compassion and human rights creating the argument of cultural wars, white privilege and an obsession to maintain wealth at all costs.  The world is divided into concepts of statistics, bottom lines and net profit/worth as the only conversation n the table rather than our lived impact on each other and the very planet itself.

The real value of a person is witnessed in what they do naturally for others, their kindness and compassion and how they treat the most vulnerable.  These are the unaccounted for levies of a civilised society.  Some say they believe in a higher power (like I do) but they do not live the values they say they believe in.  They do not seriously help the most vulnerable, in a wealthy society the argument is not about resources it is about political and economic will to help those believed to be a drain on the system when in truth they are an externality as a result of the inability of the market to provide full employment, to develop industries that are truly sustainable (not based on electricity, oil or gas).

This deep inauthenticity of being seen to be becomes a public façade without substance. The public become accustomed to not trusting those in authority as they can see through the publicity and spin and most do not feel heard.  My father wrote a great deal but did government change or respond? No.  That is the dilemma we all face, it is the silence that does not value the voice of the public in sincerity.  I have confronted that personally.

It is critical that the homeless are not only helped but empowered to get out of very dangerous and difficult circumstances.  In the future we are looking at 40-50% unemployment given the digital disruption, a prominent politician called ‘opportunity’.  The real question is – who is gaining from disruption as an opportunity?  It is a turnkey question. Certainly not the homeless.

My father makes the link in respect of the government spending priority between public housing and the light rail.  I regard this as a critical choice defining who government serves contrasted with the purpose of government.

Do we ensure the people have affordable housing or do we implement light rail as a convenience to a group of people catching the light rail along Northbourne Avenue (to Gugahalin) against unjustifiable economic arguments.

It raises critical questions of accountability, debt, auctions, public/private partnerships agreements, multinational power, corruption, donations and the serious disconnect with traditional government priorities given increasing privatisation and the ability with auctions to outbid ordinary people.

I thank my father for caring.  I miss him dearly.  He will be my inspiration.  An aside:  It is funny on his front step there was a mat that said a Grumpy Old man lives here and a beautiful …. (my step mother put that there.  I had to laugh).

Grumpy / Going once, going twice…

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WE had affordable housing from the 1950s to the 1980s in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia.

This was achieved by the then Federal government providing affordable land sold, in many cases, over the counter.

Since then land has steadily become more unaffordable.

In the ACT, housing unaffordability is a self-inflicted problem and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, we had a Federal government overseeing public housing in the ACT and, secondly, there was a provision for over-the-counter sales of blocks.

At the moment land developed by private firms is predominantly sold by auction. This plus the fact that land is artificially kept on short supply means that competitive bidding has driven up the price of land sharply.

The ACT government, because of light rail in particular, can’t afford to ensure affordable housing. It needs the high land prices and the high rates that follow to stay in the black as far as the Budget goes.

There is no way any low-income, prospective home buyers could have an affordable home using ACT government schemes. The accepted definition of an affordable home is one that costs around one third of a person’s income.

With self government, the housing market started to change for the worse. The concept of having a large public housing mix in the ACT took a battering. Both the Labor and Liberal Parties were determined to reduce the 13,500 public housing dwellings by selling off as much as they could and since then the public housing stock has dropped to around 10,000 units.

Since 1995, the criteria for applying for a public housing unit has been tightened with wait times blowing out from just inside three years to five. And the proportion of homeless people has risen roughly by the amount of public housing sold off. To any logical mind the result is a condemnation of the ACT government.

Since 1995 we have gone from having a low proportion of homeless people to having the second highest proportion in any Australian city. The auction system – where developers can outbid new entrants to the housing market – has seen the cost of housing more than triple over 20 years. This has created a situation where you cannot reduce the price of land without financially hurting people who have bought houses at the current price.

Howard Carew has owned a printing business for 30 of the years he has been in Canberra. Since semi-retirement he has been active in community affairs.