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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 May 2007) . . Page.. 725 ..

greatest need for the duration of perceived or unmet need, it is important to set clear boundaries about who can access public housing. Those who have the financial means to access the private rental market or home ownership should do so.

The notion of the good old days of a public housing property for life remaining are unrealistic, outdated and outmoded. The current system simply had to change, and I see the minister nodding his head. Of course, I am very happy about that because he knows that we have been pushing him and his department officials on many of these issues for a long time. So it is good to see a bipartisan approach—and hopefully a tripartisan approach if the Greens come on board with what the minister is trying to achieve here. The current system simply had to change. After six years and much pursuing of the government by me particularly and the opposition generally, I am seriously pleased to see a more sensible approach.

The government has an obligation to assist Canberrans who require housing for a period of need and who should be encouraged and supported wherever possible to enter into other forms of housing. The Liberal opposition will, of course, be monitoring closely the issue of information gathering from applicants who wish to access social housing. Again, this was raised by ACTCOSS and I do share some of the concerns with them on the matter of privacy of a tenant and the importance of maintaining integrity of data collection. Housing ACT should have the opportunity to improve, within reason, information collection on its tenants. I am hoping that the minister will be able to expand on how this data collection and the safe keeping and use of such information will occur.

ACTCOSS raised a concern about the manner in which Housing ACT can demand information from tenants “at any time” and whether or not this is discriminatory and could possibly lead to further possible stigmatising of public housing tenants. I have to say that I and the opposition welcome the move by the government. However, we probably need to make it quite clear that such information will be collected equally on all tenants regardless of whether they are in receipt of a rental rebate or are full market renters. It makes the system fair and even, so I do not really see any discrimination occurring here.

This seems to display a new willingness by the Stanhope government to rationalise the operations of Housing ACT. The Commissioner for Social Housing must have the opportunity to monitor which tenants should be encouraged to take up other housing options in the market—for example, shared equity home ownership—or in other cases reviews could be conducted in respect of rental rebates to ensure that the correct amount of rent is collected and that a tenant is not unnecessarily disadvantaged by paying the incorrect amount of rent. The Liberal opposition has also talked about annual income assessment reviews and perhaps this is moving along those same lines to make sure that people access public housing for the duration of their need.

Efficient and timely collection of data is certainly the most appropriate way to ensure that any tenant is paying the correct amount of rent and in turn is also still eligible to maintain a Housing ACT tenancy agreement. Within reason, the commissioner should have the right to seek information that will assist in improving the provision of housing assistance in the ACT.

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