Havelock House was first opened in 1951 as a hostel to accommodate public servants. During the 1970’s, the demand for hostel accommodation decreased. In 1981, the Fraser government recommended that an alternative use be found for Havelock House. Early in 1982 the Australian Federal Police (AFP) moved into a small section of Havelock House and set up offices.
In 1983, the first Hawke Ministry handed over full control and use of the building to the AFP despite intense lobbying by various welfare groups. The decision, when made public, elicited a quick and powerful response from concerned community groups. By early July a picket line was in place outside Havelock House. It stayed there 24 hours a day for 16 weeks through a long, cold Canberra winter. The Australian Social Welfare Union coordinated the picket with support from the ACT Council of Social Services. Numerous unions, community organisations and hundreds of individuals gave their time.
The aims of the picket were to pressure the government to recognise the serious need for low-cost accommodation; to ensure that Havelock House be retained as inner city low-cost accommodation; and to highlight the extent and nature of homelessness and housing related poverty in the ACT.
The picket ended in December 1983 with a settlement, which committed the government to:
1. Transfer Havelock House to low-cost housing use when alternative office accommodation was built for the AFP
2. Undertake an inquiry into homelessness in the ACT and surrounding regions.
Havelock House was officially handed over to the Department of Territories, Housing Branch in May 1987. The Department of Territories undertook refurbishment of the building while an interim Management Committee was appointed to set up the new accommodation service. The building was officially handed over from the Department of Territories to Havelock Housing Association on 10th April 1988, and the first residents moved in.
Since that time, Havelock Housing has provided affordable accommodation for people on low incomes. In 1992 Havelock House was incorporated and became the Havelock Housing Association. Properties in other locations across Canberra gradually came under the Association’s management and today the Association is one of the largest Community Housing providers in the ACT.