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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 358..

Mrs Burke: Ah, a dorothy dixer!

MR HARGREAVES: I acknowledge the mooing across the chamber of Mrs Burke, which you may have missed, Mr Speaker, and I thank Ms Porter for the question. I would like to take this opportunity to inform the Assembly of the range of issues addressed at the ministerial consumer forum and housing summit held late last month.

Mr Speaker, as you know, private rental prices in the ACT are too high. The price of houses is prohibitive for most ordinary people and many people are forced to rely on the government for housing assistance. This has resulted in our public housing waiting list being too long and many Canberrans being homeless or trapped in inappropriate housing. That has been so since time immemorial in this place. To pay a little bit of credit here, I know that the Leader of the Opposition struggled with this issue in the same way that we do and I do not wish to have anybody believe that he did not attempt to have a go at it either because-fair go.

The housing issues confronting us are complex and not all of the solutions are within the purview of the ACT government. With that in mind, I held a series of advisory forums throughout 2005 and early 2006 to work directly with the community and private sectors to identify pressing issues and find solutions. These forums provided initial feedback on issues of importance that were further debated during the consumer forum and housing summit.

I was absolutely inspired by the attendance at the two days, with over 500 participants engaging in some stimulating debate. The consumer forum, held on 27 February, enabled Canberrans who live in or who are seeking rental accommodation to discuss housing issues and thereby assist in the development of government housing policy. The forum was open to all tenants and over 250 private, public and community tenants as well as individuals experiencing homelessness or who access crisis accommodation services attended.

The consumer forum stressed that we need to continue to place strong emphasis on improving our services for our tenants-in particular, to focus on individual client responses, improvements to the location and quality of our housing stock and improvements to Housing ACT's customer service and communication mechanisms. Tenants also identified the need to develop strong working relationships with housing managers. Housing ACT will expand its staff development programs to better equip staff to respond to the broad needs of its clients. The Stanhope government has a strong commitment to tenant participation and I am looking at expanding tenant participation mechanisms, including the establishment of regular regional tenant forums.

I turn to the feedback from clients at the housing summit on the second day. The summit brought together a diverse group of people to share ideas and collectively consider new opportunities to improve the housing system in the ACT. A clear outcome of the forum and the summit was an acknowledgment that there is an insufficient supply of affordable housing in the ACT. There was also broad agreement that the government would never be able to provide enough public housing stock to respond to all of the demand for affordable housing in the territory.

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