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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 4 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1317..

MR RATTENBURY: You really can't help yourself, can you?

MADAM SPEAKER: No, Mr Rattenbury, it is not your job; it is my job.

MR RATTENBURY: Fair enough. The point is this product is designed to specifically assist older Canberrans who are financially struggling. As I was starting to say before Mr Hanson interrupted, it is particularly an issue for older women who often, for a range of circumstances, later in their lives find themselves single, perhaps with not many assets and either a low or fixed income. This group of older women in our community are particularly vulnerable. A product like the affordable rental scheme seeks to fill that gap in the market and assist those Canberrans who are finding themselves in that gap between being eligible for public housing and not being able to make it financially in the private rental market. That is the intent of that program and why the government offers it.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Berry.

MS BERRY: Minister, can you please outline the changes to the scheme?

MR RATTENBURY: I did make some changes to the scheme in response to concerns raised by some of the tenants, some of the constituents, who contacted me. The scheme was set up in a way where tenants were required to pay 74.9 per cent of market rental rates, which is the standard definition for affordable housing or community housing, whether it is from the government or the community sector.

We found that by tying tenants to a rigid definition of affordability, some of the tenants were in a situation where they were being asked to potentially pay 40 to 50 per cent of their income in rent. This is clearly not the intent of the scheme. Most definitions of housing affordability talk about paying up to 30 per cent of income on housing costs. Beyond 30 per cent, people are considered to be in housing stress.

I directed Housing to work through the issues with tenants and then, based on that, we have taken a new and more flexible approach to setting the rental rates. There will now be a six-tier banded approach where tenants will pay a rental rate based more on their income than on an arbitrary definition of affordable housing.

This provides a greater level of flexibility for tenants. It means that people will be able to stay in the same home as they age and that the rent charged by government will more accurately reflect their personal circumstances. I think this is a good initiative. It has certainly been welcomed both by the tenants and a range of stakeholder groups.

MADAM SPEAKER: Before I call you, Mr Gentleman, could I just draw the opposition's attention to the fact that I have made a number of comments about the level of noise from the opposition benches. I know that you have stopped interjecting but the level of noise is actually quite high and it is very difficult for members to be heard. People have asked questions, and they are entitled to hear the answers. And I need to hear the answers as well. Mr Gentleman.

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