Page 1056 - Week 04 - Thursday, 22 April 2021
territory’s community. Appropriations are largely taken from the proceeds of taxation, government fees, charges, and fines. Prominent sources for this appropriation are, of course, residential rates and land taxes that we pay, with many in the community sensing that these have reached or even surpassed unbearable and unreasonable levels.
An important principle of democratic governance is at play here and it is based on a fundamental deal between the community and the government. That is what this is about. On one side the community is unavoidably obligated to pay its mandated liabilities either willingly or otherwise, and on the other side our government has an obligation to spend these billions, effectively, sensibly and efficiently.
It is often a strong temptation of government to allocate funds for frivolous purposes based on misinformed ideology or in order to prop up compromised policy platforms. But I can say that the appropriation for Housing ACT is most certainly for a sound and sensible purpose. I know that is something the ministers and I agree with. There is absolutely nothing frivolous about putting a roof over the heads of those otherwise unable to do so themselves.
In 2019-20 around 21,500 people were the beneficiaries of the Housing ACT appropriation. Interestingly, the $55 million for this year’s appropriation for controlled recurrent payments is a bit over a million less than last year. Also of interest is that capital injections into Housing ACT’s balance sheet rises from $34 million in 2019-20 to $83 million in 2020-21 for housing renewal programs. So, on the surface, it would seem that provision of new housing is pushing ahead and parallel with the reduction in recurrent expenditure which supports the existing housing stock and existing residents.
So let’s have a look at what the $55 million controlled recurrent payment will get for the public housing sector. Housing ACT has set a number of priorities for 2020-21, including a set of human-centred principles to be implemented across all functions of the business. The agency also says that it is committed to excellence and the highest ethical standards in dealing with its clients. We would all agree that these are highly desirable aspirations, and I have no doubt that Housing ACT is working its hardest to meet these goals.
This agency’s job is not an enviable one by any means—trying to cope with almost 2,800 people on the waiting list on the one hand and what seems like a reduction in its housing stock on the other. What seems to be missing from Housing ACT’s priorities and objectives is something that assures residents of public housing that they will be provided with a property that is free of health and safety risks and is capable of being lived in. That is probably quite important.
The closest thing I can see to this obligation is strategic objective 2, which says, among other things, that Housing ACT will provide access to safe, affordable and sustainable housing. I really wish that an assurance of a living environment free of health and safety risks was a critical plank in this agency’s priorities and performance benchmarks and I genuinely urge consideration of that change as we move forward. But we know for a fact that this is not the case. You only need to check the annual report to see that almost 42 per cent of complaints relate to maintenance and property