Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1870 ..
MR QUINLAN (11.25): Mr Speaker, in relation to the housing budget and in particular the estimates hearing, my concerns relate to the policy parameters employed in deciding whether tenants are permitted to purchase their government home or not. The policy articulated in estimates by the Minister was replete with economic reasoning and attention to market forces. However, it was quite alarming that there was no consideration of the people themselves, the human consideration, the desire of tenants to have the security of home ownership and also to stay in the location with which they have become familiar, the microcommunity in which they live. Some of them are dependent on the support networks of the location with which they are familiar. It is where they have built up a social and a support network. If they wish to purchase there may well be problems in the process of relocation. In fact, from what I heard in estimates, there was a complete absence of humanity in the policy.
The example I used then and the example I will use again is the Causeway, which has a unique community. It is a community where in one street, a very short street - it is no longer than this chamber - there are four generations of one family. It is a community where, 40 or 50 years ago - I cannot remember which - they built a preschool and 50 per cent of that preschool was paid for by the community, by the people. There are still people there that remember that particular construction and there are people there that associate very closely with that area.
Times are changing for them, as they have changed for many of us. I accept the fact that many of them have lived in rented premises for many years, and lived happily in rented premises. But in modern times they see the pressure of the Kingston foreshore development and the pressure on their properties. They foresee the pressure on them to move as the area goes upmarket. At the other end of the spectrum, with the social problems that are building, they can see areas, and possibly their area, degenerating much as areas like Burnie Court have degenerated with the co-location of a number of people with common problems.
Now, all that these people really desire in the long term is to maintain their patch, to maintain their territory, and to maintain the quiet enjoyment of their particular area. Even though they have not bought their homes, they believe they own the territory, the territory on which they stand. In that respect and in respect of what came out in the Estimates Committee, I strongly suggest that there be a revision of the policy on the sale of government housing, and I suggest that that review have the intent of injecting some humanity into it.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (11.29): Housing is a very important issue for the Government, and the Government takes its commitment to public housing very seriously. We are, by quite some measure, the largest landlord in the ACT and, with that, we are committed to ensuring that standards are maintained, that choices are widened and that the stock of houses that ACT Housing controls, as quickly and as best we can, matches the needs of the tenants. It is very important that we maintain that stock. This year some $19m will be spent on repairing and maintaining our properties. There is an improvement and upgrade program - worth about $20m - and to meet the special needs of the aged, the disabled and crisis accommodation, there is some $11m.