Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 393 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
We have to see what it is that connects these three examples of mismanagement and incompetence. The connection, the thread that runs through them all, is that in relation to each of those the current Leader of the Opposition was either the Chief Minister or the Deputy Chief Minister and Attorney-General, and at the time of the events that are depicted, portrayed or reported on in these three reports, the Liberal Party was in government.
MS GALLAGHER: My question is to the minister for housing. The ACT is currently experiencing one of the lowest vacancy rates in the private rental market in recent history. Minister, are you aware that housing affordability has become an issue, with the price of housing in the ACT being amongst the most expensive in the country? Are you aware of the pressures that these combined factors are putting on the provision of public and community housing in the ACT?
MR WOOD: I am only too aware. I am sure that other members are, too. ACT Housing has been swamped with applications for housing. My office receives innumerable phone calls on the issue. I am sure the offices of other members do as well. The market out there is very tight. That is causing great stress to far too many people. This week, a woman with two children is, beyond question, sleeping in a car, and two quite large families are bedded down in a two-bedroom unit. People are unable to gain housing. There are people in SAAP accommodation who have been there for far too long because they have not been able to exit into public housing.
The world out there is very tough if you are looking for housing. That is why, in our election policy, we promised to stop the planned and deliberate downsizing of public housing, knowing that sales do need to continue in certain circumstances. We aim to maintain a stock as best we can.
I suppose the news out there for those who own property is good. Most Canberrans do and many Canberrans own more than one house. Their capital has grown and their income is up through increased rents, but there has been an adverse effect at the lower end of the market. Rents have gone up to such an extent that a three-bedroom house can be rented for between $220 and $270 a week. A great number of people cannot afford to do that. Two-bedroom units cost a little less.
People are being squeezed out of the private rental market because it is too expensive and are looking for public housing, but it is simply not there. There are not enough vacancies in public housing to accommodate that demand. For example, for what are termed early allocations-a priority area for people who are homeless, about to be homeless, about to be evicted or in SAAP accommodation, people who need fairly ready access to public housing-the waiting list is 71/2 months long. That is for people with an immediate need and they will still have to wait 71/2 months. At the end of January, there were 416 people on that early allocation list. The problem is very difficult to solve. It has been building up over some period.
A further problem is that it cannot be quickly solved. You just cannot turn around and provide options and alternatives in anything under two or three years, if you can find those options. That is why the government has established a task force to look at