Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3024 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
trying to care for individuals won't amount to a hill of beans if the housing isn't there-and that can come about only if Planning, Treasury and Community Services all share the vision.
MR STEFANIAK (12.03): I think it is preferable if I speak now in relation to housing. I certainly would not agree with Ms Tucker's comment that this government seems to have a better idea-I don't know if I'm quoting her properly-than the previous government on housing. I think a lot was certainly achieved there, and I look to see what exactly this government will do.
In this budget there are some good initiatives and there are some worrying signs as well. I have some disappointments over the government's lack of funding to assist the homeless in the ACT. In terms of the housing component, it is an uninspiring budget. There are a number of points. Firstly, the budget for housing, whilst claiming an increase of $3.5 million over the previous year, is actually lacking in initiatives. I note that the rents actually have gone up $6.2 million. But the government funding for ACT Housing has actually gone down $3.1 million from what it was in the previous financial year under the previous government.
In terms of the initiatives listed, this year there is only a paltry $125,000 allocated to assist people with short-term accommodation needs. This will do very little to address some of the chronic problems of homelessness in our community, especially in the area of emergency accommodation. At least in last year's housing budget there was actually $240,000 for short-term crisis accommodation, which is basically the overnight accommodation, plus $1.5 million which was allocated for crisis accommodation and management. I also had hoped that the government would have responded to calls by welfare groups for further crisis accommodation, particularly for men and men with children. I would have expected some real effort to be made to assist those most in need. At the very least, I would have expected the government to provide some more actual emergency accommodation.
The only thing I can see here in the budget was a $3 million fund-I hope it does not become a slush fund-which was allocated to the affordable housing taskforce. That may be all very well, but the fact is that we need some real solutions now, not six, eight or 12 months down the track. I can recall earlier this year-in May, when I had a summit with a number of groups-St Vincent de Paul Society representatives stating that they were turning away approximately six or so single men each day, because of a lack of accommodation they could give them.
I note in a recent report tabled by the Assembly committee looking at this issue that the society is quoted as saying that it is some 36 men a week-close on 2,000 a year if it keeps going like that. Indeed, the Assembly report basically confirmed the figures that were available and were public earlier this year, in May. So I think those figures were available to the government. The non-government organisations who look after some of this area were certainly telling the government that, and the government could have done something in the budget-not just allocated a $3 million slush fund which can be allocated to certain things later on. There is an urgent need for accommodation, certainly for single men, now.