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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 May 2018) . . Page.. 1656 ..

Of course, I am really pleased there was such an outpouring of community support when the plight of St John’s came to the attention of media—social and traditional—on Monday, and these generous donations are really promising. It is great that they have propped up St John’s for the next few months, but I fear this is not a sustainable way for St John’s or other services in Canberra to operate. The recent drop in donations that St John’s reported could possibly be due to rising cost of living pressures, and I fear the community’s support may wane again in the future. Foodbank in the ACT has also reported increasing demand, with an extra 389,486 meals needed per year to meet the needs of our community.

It is not just food and housing costs that are a daily concern; people living in poverty often cannot pay bills for the basics that many of us take for granted like utilities, car registration and insurance or minimum credit card repayments. We need more funding for local community services who are supporting the vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged people and families, who are bearing the brunt of successive cost-cutting measures. These services are vital to help people get access to the supports they need to get back on their feet, including education and employment services.

On census night 2016, 1,599 ACT residents and 121 Queanbeyan residents were considered homeless. This is a slight reduction from 1,739 in Canberra and 127 people in Queanbeyan in 2011, but this means that approximately one out of every 250 people—that is 0.4 per cent—in the Canberra-Queanbeyan region was experiencing homelessness, and this also coincides with a 33 per cent increase in significantly overcrowded homes.

The most recent Anglicare rental affordability snapshot found that not one rental was affordable in the area for a single person on Newstart or youth allowance. Anglicare also notes that 8.3 per cent of the Canberra-Queanbeyan population who were renting accommodation were paying more than 30 per cent of their household income for rent, putting them in an unaffordable situation.

Although this is a lower rate than for Australia overall, which is at 11.5 per cent, this reflects the higher median income in this region rather than the affordability of accommodation for low income earners in the ACT. Aside from a small number of dwellings affordable to age pensioner households, there were no affordable housing options for any household that derived its income from a Centrelink payment. With a total lack of any increase for this in the budget last night, that situation is not likely to improve any time soon.

That is why I have been advocating so strongly for social and affordable housing targets. It was disappointing to see the government try to amend my motion in private members’ business in the last sitting period. I called upon the government to commit to growing social housing stock to at least maintain the minimum of 7.1 per cent of ACT’s housing stock as social housing, and that is where rent is set to a maximum of 25 per cent of the tenant’s income. However, I am pleased the motion was supported by a majority of this Assembly because now the government is instructed and hopefully committed to maintaining that level of social housing. Hopefully, this will prevent the overall number of social housing dwellings from falling in future.

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