The ACT government’s public housing overhaul is seeing hundreds of relocations, but Jenny Field is saying no

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

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

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

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

But the Canberra widow said her O’Connor had not been threatened after she received an ACT government relocation notice.

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

Jenny, who has lived in the house with her husband before he died, said she would “hate” to be moved elsewhere.

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

Two-day window to prepare ‘distressing’

Jenny looks serious as she stands in her darkened hallway.
Jenny received a letter this week giving her 48 hours to prepare her argument to stay put.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Housing ACT has deemed Jenny Field’s public housing property an aging asset on valuable land.

She has become one of hundreds of tenants who are facing relocations under the Growing and Renewing Public Housing scheme.

The government said the project would bolster much-needed social housing stock and offer tenants more modern, energy-efficient homes.

Most affected residents have agreed to be relocated.

But earlier this week, Jenny was one of several people who received a letter from Housing ACT with an invitation to appear before a panel to plead for discretion.

She said she became distressed as the notification gave her 48 hours to prepare for the panel — a deadline advocates have labeled “appalling”.

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

“They would also have to organize support to get to that hearing and representation from lawyers or other advocates.

“Time after time, we are seeing a complete disregard for these tenants from the ACT government.”

Meetings with tenants will be ongoing: Berry

A woman with brown hair looks away from the camera
ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry said tenants did not have to attend meetings this week if they were unable.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

Dr Campbell has called on the ACT government to change tack and make the relocation scheme voluntary.

In a statement to the ABC, Housing Minister Yvette Berry said she believed ACTCOSS’s position was “disappointing” and added that it could “cause unnecessary stress to 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 be ongoing and no one needs to attend a meeting this week if they don’t want to,” Ms Berry said.

The ABC has obtained a copy of the letter sent to tenants as well as an accompanying fact sheet.

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Most public housing tenants have agreed to move on, but Jenny does not want to.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

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

It added that the decision would be made off the back of the panel within 14 businesses.

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

It’s that knowledge that has kept Jenny on edge as she prepares for her hearing.

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