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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 November 2010) . . Page.. 5410 ..

our expenditure decisions. This is money that could be put to a far better use that would make a real difference for many Canberrans who need it most.

It is well accepted that the grants have had an inflationary effect on house prices. Given that house prices have risen very significantly during the life of the grant scheme, it is not possible to determine how much of the rise can be attributed to each of the various factors, but it has been almost universally accepted that the scheme has played a part in inflating house prices. The median price of established house transfers in Canberra is $550,000, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics March quarter 2010 report, which is the most recent available as June quarter results have not yet been published.

What the scheme should do is help those who would not otherwise be able to purchase a home. Above the median house price, the grant makes no difference as to whether or not someone would buy a home. Below that price, it can at least be reasonably argued that it does make a difference to realising homeownership. The amendment will save around $2 million annually, which could be better spent on alternative housing initiatives that deliver real benefits to those who are in real need of housing assistance here in Canberra.

It is universally recognised that the scheme should be more targeted. What this amendment does is restrict the grant payments to a level where at least it can be argued that it will make a difference. We know that a whole range of initiatives will be necessary to tackle housing affordability and this is just the first step that identifies some money that could be better allocated to tackle that issue.

As I said, what we should do now is ensure that the scheme is part of a comprehensive review of our affordable housing strategy. The finding of that review can then inform the debate on further amendment to the scheme, as well as other affordability strategies to ensure that we have an effective, consistent and cohesive scheme that delivers real outcomes for Canberrans.

The proposed amendment recognises the overwhelming weight of evidence that unequivocally says that the scheme should be wound back, or phased out completely, in favour of more effective and targeted policies that would deliver a far greater benefit to the Canberra community. But, of course, in this case, my amendment is to lower that cap. I hope that other members in the Assembly will support the amendment.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Health and Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.16): The government will not support the amendment to cap the value of the grant at a property value of $550,000. We did move the amendment to the act to have $750,000 put in it as the cap. This was done in relation to some consistency across jurisdictions. It was not being implemented as a way to minimise significant access to the first homeowner scheme. I think that if you extended it to $550,000, you would affect hundreds of transactions every year. The first homeowner scheme usually involves around 2,900 applicants and those over 750 are very minor—I think about one per cent of the applicants. If you are extending it right down to 550, you would deny potentially hundreds of first

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