Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 20 October 2010) . . Page.. 4802 ..
I believe that if we in our community are to have a strong, accurate, informed debate about the state of affordable housing in the ACT, we must call on the government to develop and use more accurate terminology. Government’s choice of language is important, because it can influence people’s understanding of a problem and possible solutions to it. The choice of language can also guide where the government chooses to invest significant resources in addressing the problem.
One of the central tenets of this motion and the government work in this area is the affordable housing action plan from 2007. I note that the Greens first called on the government to develop an affordable housing action plan back in 2005 through a motion in this chamber, as Canberra was already exhibiting strong signs of difficulty in the housing market. Unfortunately, the government rejected the motion at the time but did eventually release the action plan in 2007.
Three years on and many people, including government members, are reflecting on what has and has not been achieved. Change does take time, but it is fair to say that, in three years, we have seen some of the impact the action plan is having and can begin to make some strong comments. The comments we have and are receiving is that the government’s commentary on affordable housing is missing the mark and it does not represent what constituents and housing consumers are experiencing.
I wish to make it very clear to both the government and the opposition that my motion is focused on the terminology and measures we use in the affordable housing debate. We cannot debate strategies when there is such a high degree of misrepresentative language being used. The doublespeak needs to end before we can have a clear discourse with the public on this subject. For that reason, developing an accurate definition is imperative.
This is also very much about the demand side of the housing equation. Since the affordable housing action plan was launched in 2007, we have heard the Chief Minister many times refer to housing in the ACT as the most affordable in Australia. This analysis is based on whether households earning median incomes can afford median house prices, including rentals. Such commentaries are inaccurate because, as the government well knows, having a high median income means that people earning lower incomes are further behind. When the government talks about housing affordability, it should really be talking about those families in the most housing stress rather than how households and many incomes are travelling. In fact, many people in the lower median income bracket would also be struggling under current rent and house prices.
The government has indicated that it plans to conduct a full review of the affordable housing action plan prior to end of the year. This review appears to have been kicked off by the slum housing that was discovered several months ago. The Greens support the government’s decision to renew and reinvigorate the affordable housing action plan, and we are moving this motion today to ensure that the government’s understanding of affordable housing reflects the policy development of those bodies which are leading the way, such as the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, known as AHURI, and the National Centre for Social Economic Modelling, or NATSEM.