Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 64..
MS GALLAGHER: My question is to the Minister for Urban Services, Mr Wood. Despite the fact that mortgage interest rates are averaging historically low levels and the demand for housing loans in the ACT was up by 4.7 per cent in October, housing affordability remains a significant issue for a large group of ACT residents, both buyers and renters. A major finding of the ACT poverty report was that approximately one in 12 people in the ACT is affected by poverty. It also found that specific issues that contribute to poverty in the ACT include the cost of housing and transport. What is the government planning to do to address the affordability problem?
MR WOOD: On the surface, recent housing figures would appear to be good news. There has been a reasonable growth in the number of new homes being built. Over the past year there has been something like a 12.5 per cent increase, I think, in the average price of houses. But that brings mixed blessings. If you own property, it is good news as your asset is increasing in value, but a large number of people are finding it very difficult to get a roof over their head. The price of houses has increased by more than the $14,000 that you might get from the federal government; so you can get a bit of cash to help you to buy into a house, but you are going to be paying more in the end. But you can get in.
For those people on very low or modest incomes, which is what the questions was directed at, buying a house at any time, even at this time of low interest rates, is a bit of an ask, is a bit beyond them, and they look at renting. If housing prices go up, rents go up. I am sure all members of this Assembly have found many people coming to them about the awful strain of paying the rent on their houses. I hope that a lot of the home buyers at the moment will not find their repayments a burden if interest rates go up in future, and they will go up at some stage, I suppose. But we are looking at those people who find it difficult to pay rent. They are looking for public housing, which is pretty tight, and they are looking for rentals in the private sector.
We would like to see solutions to the problem for those low and modest income people. I know that some years ago the then housing minister-I think it was Mr Smyth-had a series of meetings with the private sector to see what might be done to make housing affordability a better prospect for those low income earners. It is a big ask, it is not easy, because the development industry is geared more towards people with money in their pockets. I will give the former government some credit for reinvigorating late this year the housing advisory committee, part of which is a subcommittee looking at housing affordability.
In the election campaign, we promised to raise the status of the housing advisory committee by giving it more responsibility. Certainly, that subcommittee will now have an important role in developing policies about housing affordability. Together with Mr Corbell, who also ran policies in this area in the election campaign, I will be working with that subcommittee to see what might be done, what policies might come through.
We have been paying attention to what is being said around the place. There was a forum here only a week or so ago, attended by some of the best brains in housing, and we had some reasonable suggestions as to where we might go. We want to look at what we can do in the ACT. Mr Corbell has responsibility for land development and residential redevelopment. Maybe there are some mechanisms that we can put in place there, since