2 August 2023

Anonymous donors' $1m boost helps Googong housing plan build momentum

| James Day
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Two women flank man holding cheque

To kickstart the project, one anonymous couple from the region gave a $1 million donation. From left are Karabar Housing Cooperative (KHC) secretary Sylvia de Luca, KHC board member and founder Fr Michael Cockayne, and KHC chair Vivian Cox. Photo: Vivian Cox.

With exorbitant rental prices and a long waiting list for social housing, few affordable options are left across Canberra and its surrounding regions. However, there is hope that Karabar Housing Cooperative‘s (KHC) new project in Googong will relieve some of the pressure on those struggling to find a place to live.

Since it began in 1986, the self-funded organisation’s mission has been to provide housing for those on low and moderate incomes within the Queanbeyan region. Upon completion, its 3500-square-metre block of land will have 22 one- and two-bedroom townhouses available to its members at a rental rate between 25 and 36 per cent less than its market value.

“Sixty per cent of our tenant members are on either age or disability pensions,” KHC chair Vivian Cox said.

”They’ve joined us because the current wait time on NSW’s social housing lists is at a minimum five years, but often closer to 10.

“Although they’re paying an average 70 per cent of the properties’ actual market value with us, it’s still more than if they were in social housing. Yet for many of them, this is the best option available while they wait.”

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Since coming into the role 18 months ago, Ms Cox has been working to make the $7 million-plus project a reality. Her predecessor, David Horton (now chair emeritus), introduced the idea of targeting key and emergency workers, after witnessing them move to Canberra for the pandemic and struggle to find accommodation.

three men and a woman standing outside a pub

Providing support to the project are (from left) QPRC Mayor Kenrick Winchester, QPRC CEO Rebecca Ryan, MP Kristy McBain’s senior electorate officer Stephen Quilkey, and Lions Club Queanbeyan president Greg Tarrant. Photo: Vivian Cox.

Last Thursday night, 45 people attended KHC’s launch at the Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan, raising $3400. The evening also celebrated the kickstart donation of $1m from a couple in the region who wish to remain anonymous.

DNA Architects has already given the project concept drawings free. And Peet Limited senior project director Malcolm Leslie collaborated with KHC to provide the land at 65 per cent of its market value (about $1.5m). The land is to be purchased this month and built sometime next year.

Two men in suits standing next to each other

Supporting the project at the launch were KHC chair emeritus David Horton and MP Steve Whan’s senior electorate officer Indigo Braeder. Photo: Vivian Cox.

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Ms Cox said it was also a unique opportunity for KHC to upgrade and expand its work, as the land was owned by it and not on a lease to the Anglican Church like many of its other properties.

In the future, KHC hopes to help more of the region’s homeless and those requiring long-term mental health support. Some of its board members perform such work for HOME in Queanbeyan, and the Queanbeyan Housing Action Collective (Q-HAC). In 2021, the latter began the Sleepbus service, which has now provided 1200 nights of safe and secure rests.

For those interested in donating to the cause, GoFundMe and PayPal links are on the KHC website. But Ms Cox said people could also help by taking advantage of the QR code posters to be scattered around Queanbeyan this week, or calling the office number at the bottom of the cooperative’s website and chatting with its secretary, Sylvia De Luca.

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