Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (7 August) . . Page.. 2469..
MR HARGREAVES: My question is to the minister for housing. Minister, section 68 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 sets out the definition of an excessive rent increase. It states that rents in excess of 20 per cent greater than CPI need to be justified by the lessor. According to the latest CPI figures from the ABS, the upper limit on this increase is marginally over 5 per cent. Hence, the average rent increase of 9.8 per cent that you boasted of so proudly in your press release is nearly double the reasonable level. I will be interested to hear the justification.
Minister, I have been contacted by tenants who are facing increases of $20 to $40 a week on poorly maintained properties and who are now going to fight these increases in the tribunal. Today's Canberra Times has a letter to the editor written by a woman who has been forced to leave her ACT Housing home because of the rent increase. She was on the enormous annual salary of $27,000.
Minister, you said that the ALP opposed what you called a "rent redistribution to help the least well off". I can assure you the ALP does oppose a rent redistribution that takes from the poor and gives to the poverty stricken. As the writer of the letter says, "How is this fair Mr Minister for Housing?".
Many of the increases are clearly excessive, according to this act. As the largest landlord in the ACT and as a landlord subject to the provisions of the act, why have you ignored the provisions of this act and proceeded in this manner?
MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, because the law requires me to do it. It is very clear, under legislation, what I am required to do. That is what has been conducted. The act to which you refer also allows appeals under that circumstance. As you point out, there will be a number of people who make appeals.
Often, Mr Speaker, you hear stories that seem terrible but in fact are not the reality. So let me use as an example Ms Nicol who wrote to the Canberra Times this morning. Ms Nicol rented an ACT Housing two-bedroom townhouse at 22 Osborne Place, Belconnen. The market rent for the property was $159 per week.
Mr Speaker, I wouldn't normally do this, but when the person raising the issue misrepresents things then she opens herself to the facts of the matter. The level of Ms Nicol's income entitled her to receive a rental subsidy. She was therefore charged a reduced rent of $123.30 per week. This subsided rent was equivalent to 25 per cent of Ms Nicol's gross household income.
Ms Nicol seems to be claiming that ACT Housing should be charging rent based on net income rather than gross income.
Mr Corbell: This is disgraceful. You are a custodian of people's private information.
MR SPEAKER: I warn you, Mr Corbell.
Mr Corbell: This is disgraceful.