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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 589 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

the demand for rental properties increases, and the price of rental accommodation goes up. One common way by which young people, students and graduates save money and increase their social connections is to live in a shared house.

However, the "no groups" rule, adopted by many rental agencies in the territory, makes it almost impossible for young people to find a home. "No groups" has become the mantra of complacent real estate agents, with such a high demand for rental accommodation in a city with one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country.

My personal experience is akin to that of many young house hunters in the ACT. Applications have been declined without reason: in many cases we are told not to bother. Young people can and do pay rent and, just like other tenants, we can maintain properties. When I first raised this issue last month, a property owner, Ron Mackie of Deakin, wrote to the Canberra Times stating that he knows "how easily a house can be trashed by groups of tenants, many of whom remain unknown to the owner and agent". However, in answer to Mr Mackie, I would suggest that sound property management, not discriminatory practices, ensure that houses are not trashed by any tenant, be they shared houses or otherwise.

Imagine the concern if an ad for a four-bedroom property stated "no families", because the property owner or real estate agent knew, to paraphrase Mr Mackie, how easily a house can be trashed by a family with children, many of whom remain unknown to the owner and agent. Further, imagine the concern if rental properties were advertised with a by-line that no women, heterosexual couples, Christians, unmarried fathers, Buddhists or vegetarians need apply.

Discrimination has been removed from many areas of the community, but we must remain eternally vigilant to prevent discriminatory practices, and to ensure that they are not condoned, implemented or advertised. Young people are sick and tired of being dismissed merely on the basis of age. If, as tenants, they can pay the rent and look after the property, then they should not be refused on the basis of age or marital status.

I welcome the support of the Real Estate Institute of the ACT, which indicated in its recommendations to property owners that it was not good practice to exclude a particular group of people. It recommended that all applications be considered on their merits and that references be checked. It seems the challenge is to now inform the property owners and the wider community that shared houses can be a good investment, and that discrimination in all its forms is not welcome in the ACT.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

The Assembly adjourned at 5.05 pm.

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