Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (30 July) . . Page.. 3015..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
I will turn now to the need for these kinds of mechanisms. We are all very aware, I am sure, of the increases in the price of housing over the past five years or so in the ACT and around the country. These changes in the market have led to a reduction in the amount of the rental stock available to people on low incomes. We have had the disturbing situation where the increased building of multiunit residences in the central Canberra area has not led to an accompanying increase in affordable housing. After going through an extremely tight vacancy rate-an average of 2.6 per cent-over some time, the market eased a bit to 4.5 per cent but has since tightened again. What easing there has been, however, is not in the lower end of the market. Some observers have pointed out that there is instead a glut in the upper end of the market, in the newer units pitched at higher income tenants. This has put pressure on public housing, already under pressure due to cuts imposed by the previous government, following the economic rationalist trend around the country.
The current government has committed to at least maintaining the stock. But this is not enough, particularly with the current situation and likely direction of the housing and lower income rental market. Repeated failure of government to implement various commitments to require affordable housing or to increase public housing has contributed to this problem. The Kingston foreshore development, from the beginning, was supposed to have a social mix and was supposed to include a proportion of affordable housing. The draft development application included a requirement that at least 10 per cent of the places be affordable for people on low incomes. But these objectives, bandied around as part of the sell job, have not made it through to reality; have not made it through to firm requirements.
One of the responses given was that it was okay because there was already public housing in the rest of Kingston. When the problem of Kingston foreshore not matching the promise came up in 1999, I and Mr Wood, then opposition spokesperson for housing, made a call for 10 per cent of redevelopment housing to be made available to ACT Housing tenants. The Canberra Times article of 14 August 1999 claimed that "Ms Tucker's call was enthusiastically endorsed by the opposition's spokesman on public housing, Bill Wood". Mr Wood was then quoted as saying:
It should be at least 10 percent. The percentage of government housing around the ACT should be reflected everywhere, including the Kingston Foreshore.
Unfortunately for our community, and unfortunately for people living on low incomes, this has not happened. We need to do much better than rely on the concept of "student residences" redevelopments, with no requirement for student residents, with no particularly student-friendly inclusions. I will not go on, but without some guarantee, some built-in ongoing requirement for a proportion of these developments to be affordable housing, it seems clear that we will not get it.
Increased stocks of public housing will always be the best buffer against the market. It is the only situation where the rent will remain automatically at a level that matches the tenant's income. It is stable. It is a place where people can have the opportunity to get some stability into their lives. The problem is that we do not have enough. We have had already quite a few missed opportunities in the central developments. City west is the