Questions are being raised about the relevance of heritage buildings within a modern community environment. Property Council of Australia believes concerns about the heritage value of public housing developments must be balanced with the needs of the Canberra community and the people who live in them.
As the ACT Government outlines its plans for the Capital Metro, some Canberrans have voiced their concerns about public housing developments slated for demolition.
Property Council of Australia's ACT Executive Director, Catherine Carter explains that cities around the world are regenerating ageing public housing stock to ensure it serves the needs of people in the 21st century.
She observes that vigilance is required to protect exceptional examples of Canberra's heritage. But it is equally important to ask whether the Northbourne Flats in Braddon and Allawah, Bega and Currong flats in Reid are the world-class examples of architecture that need to be preserved for future generations.
Catherine Carter adds that they have a particular duty to ensure that people who can least afford it aren't forced to live in ageing relics that are expensive to heat and cool, and are unhealthy, uninspiring places, no matter who designed them.
The Property Council supports the adaptive re-use of old buildings; the recent refurbishments of Juliana House in Woden, Hotel Acton and the RM Hope Building in National Circuit are all outstanding examples of how investment in Canberra’s heritage buildings reaps rewards.
Ms Carter notes that Canberrans cannot afford to lose exceptional examples of their city’s history. However, those buildings that have little heritage value, are inhospitable places for people to live, are difficult to maintain and offer an unsightly welcome to Canberra, can be removed, the bottom line being the best examples of architectural heritage must be preserved, but there must be simultaneous investment in building infrastructure that meets the needs of people today.