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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1871 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

To improve the appeal and the livability of ACT Housing's larger complexes, there is some $5m. There is a very firm commitment in those figures that says we will endeavour to do the best we can to keep the stock in the best condition we can. There are some dilemmas. A large amount of the stock is rapidly ageing, and we have to spend our money wisely to ensure that we meet the needs as best we can.

Mr Speaker, I turn to some issues that Mr Wood raised, particularly the one concerning insulation. There is an insulation program going on. I appreciate the manner in which Mr Wood has raised these issues with me and I thank him for his constructive suggestions on some of the things that he would like to see done, particularly in rent and rent management. You should be aware that this year the Government has allowed direct debit to ensure that people do not get into dilemmas when they fall behind. We would all appreciate that, once you fall behind, it is often very difficult to catch up and get ahead, particularly for those with quite fixed incomes. So we will be encouraging all tenants, where it suits their needs, to go to direct debit, simply because it will make life much easier for them. They will not have to go to the post office or wherever it is that they pay their account and it will ensure that they never fall behind in their rent.

Mr Speaker, in regard to the upgrade of the heating at Ainslie, as I have already indicated to Mr Wood, there was a slip-up there. Mr Wood brought it to our attention that tenants were being asked for a bond and had not been informed. The officers of the department have been made aware that, when any matter concerns tenants, we should take utmost care to ensure they are fully apprised of what is going to happen and of any obligations and implications for them.

It is curious, Mr Speaker, that we return to the issue of the Causeway, and again the drum is beaten to suggest that there is something untoward happening at the Causeway. It is symptomatic, I think, of Labor's lack of appreciation of what it is to manage the assets of the Government of the Territory for the people. It is curious that I am yet to receive an application from any resident at the Causeway to purchase their house. The last time that applications were made to purchase houses was back in March 1995 by two tenants, and neither of those proceeded.

The Government must have in place a policy that will best manage for all Canberrans the asset that some 12,000 houses represent and to ensure we meet the needs of all the tenants. So, with that in mind, the policy is quite clear: We build new houses and we do not sell them for a minimum of, I think, five years. It is the same for renovated houses. Where we have put money into upgrading these premises, it is most important that we who have put that money in get value for what we have done and that we have them available for tenants so that they get value for what has been done.

Mr Quinlan says that we should look at the policy. The policy, I believe, is quite reasonable. All applicants who wish to purchase have to have had five years or more continuous tenancy in ACT housing; only properties that are separately titled will be available for sale; properties acquired or upgraded within at least the last five years will not be available; properties identified for redevelopment will not be available; properties in areas that are difficult for ACT Housing to replace may not be available; and applicants whose property is not for sale may be offered alternatives for purchase.

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