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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4352..


MR WOOD (continuing):

too expensive. Some households also have complex needs. The government is aware that declining affordability is a major issue and that interest in housing issues is at an unprecedented high.

Data points to a fairly grim situation for people on low and moderate incomes. The Affordable Housing Taskforce identified over 2,800 households in housing stress and it is considered that this figure will have increased. "Market facts" figures released by the Real Estate Institute of Australia show that over 12 months the second highest increase in the medium weekly rent of any jurisdiction for three-bedroom houses was recorded in the ACT. In comparison, rises in similar rents in most other capital cities were much lower. The low levels of vacancies in the private rental markets continue but are easing only slightly.

Recent increases in median house prices across Australia have seen affordability become a prominent economic and social issue. Median prices have increased rapidly over the last three years. The ACT median price in March 2004 was $370,000-an increase of 40 per cent in just one year. The rapid increase in prices has been accompanied by a large decline in affordability. In a climate where interest rates will only go up, it will not get better. Government has an integral role to act in these circumstances and, of course, the Commonwealth government has a significant role that it does not accept.

There has been a considerable increase in the number of people who are receiving Commonwealth rent assistance over the last decade because of this background, and that now amounts to $1.8 billion nationally. At the same time, expenditure under our housing agreements with the Commonwealth has declined. Major issues of the market and Commonwealth roles need to be worked through but the territory government also directly and indirectly influences housing demand. Through our planning system we influence the supply of housing. We are playing our part towards achieving a long-term sustainable and affordable sector in the territory, but there is no simple quick fix.

This government honoured a pre-election commitment immediately and established an affordable housing taskforce. As part of the first response of that task force, a number of initiatives were announced in the May 2003-04 budget to address recommendations, a very solid beginning step. Since that time, the government has made further progress, agreeing to 10 more recommendations of the task force, making a total of 33 agreed to, nine agreed to in principle and four to be noted.

We have made significant achievements in the last 12 months, including a capital injection of $33 million. We have released an asset management strategy, provided $1.4 million for the indigenous community and ensured that public housing can be accessed more easily by people who are homeless. We have been active in providing accommodation to old people and have expanded the existing rental bonds assistance scheme. All those initiatives and others are practical, meaningful and targeted to assist those most in need.

As to the future, further steps we are taking include targeted land releases. The Minister for Planning has announced further details about the government's commitment to release affordable blocks of land to the public. A new initiative was announced in the 2004-05 budget that land for 100 dwellings would be identified and made available in greenfield land releases by the Land Development Agency.


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