Community Facilities are important to Community!
The YWCA is getting closer to approval to demolish the community facility at 11 Rutherford Crescent Ainslie and replace it with a medium density residential development. This approval has got to be a worry for all pre-schools and childcare centres on community facilities land. The YWCA bought the block off the Government in 1993 as a concessional lease for $200,000. The price was concessional because the lease purpose was to operate ‘childcare centre and community activity centre’.
It didn’t take long for the YWCA not to provide either of these services. The Ainslie community has not been able to access the community activities centre for over twenty years. Instead the YWCA subleased most of the site to another organisation. Recently the Government has encouraged community organisations to use community facilities land to construct affordable and adaptable housing. This is causing the loss of community facilities zoned land across Canberra.
Recent studies have shown that the inner north of Canberra is increasingly short of community facilities. There will be a need for more meeting rooms, pre-schools, childcare centres and primary schools. The school system in the area is already overcapacity. Population increase and governments expanding resources going into pre-schools and childcare is driving greater demand for these community facilities. It has been recognised that these facilities are important for child development, families and the participation of women in economic life.
Where is the planning? Instead of land banking this land for future need our Government has decided to allow redevelopment as residential accommodation. This is short-term thinking which will cost the community dearly. Replacement of the 1830 sqm Ainslie site has been valued at well north of $2 million. This an opportunity cost lost.
The YWCA is an NGO with an annual revenue around $20 million per annum, most of which comes from operating childcare facilities. The rest comes from Government grants. A small amount from donations. Yet this organisation gets to decide what this community facilities site can be used for. Neither the Government nor the YWCA undertook research into the social infrastructure requirements of the area.
The Ainslie community weren’t asked if these facilities could be used for activities that would bring together and strengthen connections in the community. The Ainslie community weren’t asked whether they thought returning the site to its original lease purpose of a childcare centre/pre-school and community activities centre was important and valuable.
Why doesn’t the YWCA build this development on land appropriately zoned for residential. We suspect it’s because building on community facilities land means you can double the density of units compared with the surrounding RZ1 residential and the price paid is dirt cheap.
Why doesn’t the YWCA provide the services in their lease or give the facility back to the community so it can be redeveloped as ‘preschool/childcare centre and community activities centre in such a beautiful place surrounded by Bill Pye Park.
Ainslie Residents Association
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