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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2816 ..

Since the last time we discussed this issue, there have been several significant announcements made about initiatives to assist people suffering poverty or at risk of poverty. As has been announced by the Chief Minister, Minister Berry and Minister Vassarotti, this budget will contain a $100 million investment in community and affordable housing. This is one of the single largest investments to increase and improve the amount of affordable and public housing in the history of self-government.

The intent of this package is to provide essential housing for low income Canberrans at risk of homelessness. This, of course, reflects the parliamentary and governing agreement, which has captured a key plank of our election campaign, which was housing and a home for all. The package includes investment in public housing maintenance, growing and renewing the public housing program and the development of long-term rental accommodation options through the build-to-rent model.

We are currently out for consultation about how we can ban no-cause evictions and also to put in a legislative ban on rent bidding. The insidious process of rent bidding can prey on people’s desperation to get them to pay more than a landlord considers their property is worth. We think that is inappropriate, so we are engaging with the community as to how we can encourage more respect and equality of expectations in the rental market. Similarly, no-cause evictions can take away the security of having a home that everyone needs. It also puts renters at a significant disadvantage when it comes to negotiating and asserting their rights.

I also want to mention the millions of dollars in investment the government recently announced to invest in community legal centres and in legal aid. As Ms Lee has said before in a motion she brought to the Assembly, these are critical services that make a very important contribution to helping vulnerable people in the community.

Through the funding we have announced in the budget, the ACT government is actually extending COVID emergency level funding that the federal government has failed to continue. Some members might remember that debate we had earlier this year in the budget process, but this is a key priority. We have actually filled the gap that the federal government backed away from, because the COVID pandemic has not finished but the COVID funding from the commonwealth did. The demand at Canberra Community Law has not dropped. The federal government dropped its funding.

One of the terrible things about this pandemic, amongst so many terrible things, is that it highlights and exacerbates existing inequalities in society. If you are a person who is struggling, under this pandemic the chances are you are now struggling even more. The ACT government have used every lever and mechanism available to us to assist Canberrans on low incomes, from significantly increasing food relief to the eviction moratorium to more funding to temporary accommodation and homelessness services, as well as using all the mechanisms we have to provide some ongoing financial relief, such as electricity concessions.

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