The ACT government’s public housing redevelopment sees hundreds of moves, but Jenny Field says no

Jenny Field has developed a deep familiarity with every inch of her home over the past 40 years.

The Canberra widow has managed to remain independent despite being blind and aged into her 90s.

She said she can find her way around her home and garden because her loved surroundings have become almost an extension of herself.

“Home means everything. I’m very familiar with the house and my front yard,” Jenny said.

But the Canberra widow said her O’Connor haven was threatened after receiving a relocation notice from the ACT government.

“I would get depressed, I fucking know I would.”

Jenny, who lived in the home with her husband before his death, said she “hated” being moved elsewhere.

“And not only would I hate it, but I would probably pay a mental price … and get angry as hell,” she said.

Two-day window to prepare ‘disturbing’

Jenny received a letter this week giving her 48 hours to prepare her argument to stay.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Housing ACT has classified Jenny Field’s public housing development as an aging asset on valuable land.

She has become one of hundreds of tenants who are being forced to relocate as part of the Growing and Renewing Public Housing program.

The government said the project would strengthen the much-needed stock of social housing and provide tenants with more modern, energy-efficient homes.

Most of the affected residents have agreed to resettlement.

But earlier this week, Jenny was one of several people who received a letter from Housing ACT inviting them to appear before a panel and ask for discretion.

She said she was distraught when the notification gave her 48 hours to prepare for the panel – a deadline that advocates have called “appalling”.

“These are older people, vulnerable people, people with disabilities who are up against Housing ACT, an institution with over 300 employees, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and access to legal resources,” said Dr. Emma Campbell, CEO of ACTCOSS.

“You would also need to organize assistance to get to that hearing and representation by counsel or other counsel.

“Time and time again, we see a total disregard for these tenants by the ACT government.”

Meetings with tenants continue: Berry

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Yvette Berry, ACT’s housing secretary, said tenants wouldn’t need to attend meetings this week if they couldn’t.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

dr Campbell has urged the ACT government to change course and make the resettlement program voluntary.

In a statement to ABC, Housing Secretary Yvette Berry said she believed ACTCOSS’ position was “disappointing” and added that it “could cause unnecessary stress for Housing ACT tenants.”

Ms Berry said they had given those affected 48 hours notice to ensure they were heard as soon as possible.

“However, these meetings will continue and no one needs to attend a meeting this week if they do not wish to,” Ms Berry said.

ABC has received a copy of the letter sent to tenants and an accompanying leaflet.

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Most social housing tenants have agreed to move on, but Jenny doesn’t want to.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

In the documents, ACT Housing said it would consider a person’s age, disability and health status when making a decision to relocate.

It added that within 14 companies, a decision would be made in the back of the panel.

But one line in particular brought Jenny to tears as the correspondence was read aloud.

It’s this knowledge that has made Jenny nervous as she prepares for her hearing.

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