The Griffith Manor House open letter was submitted to the Legislative Assembly in late 2021, with over 200 signatories. You can read the full text of the letter here.

The letter

Dear Members of the ACT Legislative Assembly,

We have become aware of an ongoing campaign by a narrow but vocal minority opposing the Griffith Manor House Demonstration Housing Project (Territory Plan Draft Variation 375) that has mostly recently surfaced as a petition hosted by Elizabeth Lee MLA. This minority is not representative, but they are extremely energetic, and risk creating an appearance of popular support. We write this letter to you in part to disabuse you of such a misapprehension.

The Manor House Project is a long overdue examination of opportunities for the densification of the Inner South. We write to you to indicate our strong support for it, and other measures to reduce exclusionary zoning and increase access to housing in the Inner South and across the Territory.

Our lives, like the lives of all Canberrans, are and will be shaped by urban planning decisions like this one. Decisions that will determine where we can live, how much of our lives we spend commuting, the number and diversity of local businesses, and the financial burden of mortgages or rent. Decisions that will determine if our communities are accessible to all, and sustainable for our children. Decisions that can either entrench poverty or relieve it. Decisions that determine access to shelter, water, data, heating, fresh food, good jobs, finance, education, culture and at what price in debt, tax, emissions and convenience.

As young people without property and their allies these matters are central to our future and our children’s future. This opposition to density and development sacrifices that future to placate misplaced fears and traps Canberra in an unsustainable vision of the past.

For decades now, planning decisions in the Inner South have put these sentiments above the welfare of individual Canberrans and the overall prosperity of our city. Exclusionary zoning is not a victimless crime - it drives urban sprawl, generates traffic and congestion, increases emissions, and inflates the cost of housing. We can see the evidence of this already - Canberra’s house and unit rents are the least affordable in the country, and continue to skyrocket. We are the ones who pay those costs.

Canberrans who are born in the Inner South deserve the opportunity to raise their own families in their community. Australians who migrate to work in the Inner South deserve affordable, family-friendly housing nearby. The problem of housing supply should not be perpetually exported to the extreme fringes of Canberra, imposing ever longer commutes on those without the fortune to not already own property closer. Continuing the pattern of urban sprawl on Canberra’s outskirts prevents the development of community and social capital.

The Griffith Manor House represents an excellent way to balance the competing concerns of heritage and housing justice. It would increase the supply of housing in Griffith, revitalise local communities, increase the customer base for small business (and consequently, viability and diversity thereof), strengthen civil society, and decrease housing costs. Simultaneously, it is consistent with the Griffith streetscape and other heritage concerns. We are optimistic that the demonstration project will provide useful evidence regarding the value of the manor house typology which will inform future planning work.

We call upon all members to support Draft Variation 375 that would permit the Manor House. We call upon all members to honour the ACT Planning Strategy Strategic Directions. If we want our city to be compact, efficient, diverse, sustainable, resilient, livable, affordable, and accessible, we need developments like the Manor House.

Above all else, we ask that members consider the interests of all Canberrans - including future and young Canberrans. Clinging to exclusionary zoning laws such as this to appease a loud minority of landholders is not in the interest of the Territory.