John Hargreaves has the rare distinction of having been both a public housing tenant and the Minister for Housing in the ACT. He served as a Member of the ACT Legislative Assembly for over 14 years. After retirement in 2012, John has remained active in his local community through his volunteer work in supporting those with drug and alcohol dependency.
My wife and I moved into a public housing place in Holt and we really made it our home. The inside was decorated like a place in Vogue and we worked on the yard until it was like the Gardens of Babylon.
I remember a lot of hard work. I was in the Army and I had a second job cleaning toilets at the uni. That hard work and the affordability of public housing allowed us to achieve home ownership far quicker than we could have otherwise.
When I was Minister I was determined to tell the positive stories of people who lived in public housing. I had a ‘Tenant of the Month’ prize and I established the Joint Champions Group, where tenants and housing staff worked together to improve things.
Since I have retired I have stayed involved and active. I take any chance I can to stand up for public housing tenants. At the moment in Canberra we have too many NIMBY’s who say they don’t want to live near public housing tenants.
It is that kind of elitism and snobbery that we have to challenge. Despite what they see in the media, the public should realise that public housing tenants are real people with the same aspirations that they have.
When I talk with young people who live in public housing I tell them to be proud of their home. And I tell them that if anyone wants to have a go at them for living in public housing then they should stand up like they are seven foot tall and bullet-proof.