The community organisation has been occupying what used to be a caretaker’s unit at Havelock House for storage and the occasional meeting, to aid their work in community crime reduction and engagement.
Havelock Housing CEO Andrew Rowe admitted he was nervous to approach NHW ACT president Laurie Blackall about the matter but was pleased to find him completely on board.
“It started when one of our residents became pregnant and we were trying to find support for her. There is a severe shortage of social housing in Canberra and that was the prompt to reach out to Neighbourhood Watch and start a discussion about taking (the unit) back,” Mr Rowe said.
“I was a little bit cautious or wary. I thought they might have been a bit resistant, but Laurie was immediately receptive to the idea and told me he had already been thinking about it himself.”
Currently, Havelock House has 101 bedrooms, 30 of which are a student co-op and the rest in the style of four- to eight-bedroom units with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities.
The self-contained unit will bring the total to 102 bedrooms, which are provided to those in the community on a very low income, with a disability, or with high and complex service needs.
Mr Blackall said NHW ACT was more than happy to be handing the keys over, to see the unit used for its intended purpose.
“It became morally difficult for us that we were taking up a house that someone could be living in,” he said.
“We agreed it was the better use of the space and Andrew was very kind to offer us storage space here and use of the Federation Room for our occasional meetings.”
The self-contained one-bedroom flat is currently receiving a new lick of paint, new carpet, and undergoing general maintenance and is expected to house someone within the month.
Mr Rowe said while current government initiatives had housed many sleeping rough during COVID, the extra space at Havelock House was still always needed.
“We have 20 to 30 people on our waitlist at any time, and often they don’t have a home at all,” he said.
“We know the level of housing stress and people who can’t afford their rent in Canberra is going to become far worse.
“We are expecting over the next 12 months the waitlist for social housing in Canberra is going to increase dramatically.”