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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3026 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I am also pleased to see a strong commitment by the minister and the current government to continuing the community housing expansion program-again, a program I had the pleasure, I think, of starting some years ago. I note that it has not proceeded as quickly as it perhaps could, but it is good to see a commitment to that continuing. Recently the Chief Minister and I went to one of our community housing providers, Havelock House. They do an excellent job, and were celebrating five years operation of another excellent program there. So it is good to see those two things, the fire safety improvement program and the community housing expansion program.

But quite clearly there is a real crisis in terms of emergency accommodation. That is something the government needs to take steps on now. It cannot wait a few more months, six months or more, however long it is going to take the affordable housing taskforce to report. There is an obvious and urgent need for action, and I call on the government to take steps there, as has been asked by the various service providers.

MR SPEAKER: Order! At this point I would just like to welcome students from St Clares College to our chamber.

MS DUNDAS (12.11): I will start by asking the question: why is there an urgent need in terms of housing? The answer is: because of the actions of the former government. But, like urban services, affordable housing is one of the most disappointing areas in this budget, being yet another area where the new government is all too similar to the last one. Our public housing stock has been run down and flogged off over the years by the former government, to the point where there is a substantial amount of housing-related poverty in the ACT and an increased demand for emergency services.

This budget has not tackled this affordable housing crisis. There is some welcome funding provided for refurbishment of existing multi-unit and separate dwellings. At the end of this financial year, the number of ACT Housing dwellings is predicted to be lower than it was at the time Labor took office. Our population, on the other hand, and with it the number of people in need, will have increased. What this amounts to is an increase in poverty and misery. I hope that the next budget will bring about a proper commitment to tackling the housing needs of our poor, as we know that housing has a key role in breaking the poverty cycle.

This, again, is about what we as a community want to prioritise. While the recognition of the affordable housing taskforce is there with $3 million for community housing, and only community housing, it is disappointing that this is not actually new funding but rather just a straight transfer from the ACT Housing budget.

MR SMYTH (12.13): Mr Speaker, I need to correct something that I said in my last speech about the funding for disabilities. I was actually comparing the mental health funding of the previous years against this government's mental health funding for the coming year.

In fact, the government has put $2.5 million into disability services and $4 million over the 10 years, and that is welcome. It is not quite up to the $2.7 million in last year's budget, and it does not match, I believe, the 40 per cent increase in disability funding over the last four years that we were able to put into the portfolio, but I look forward to increased funding in the coming years. I just wanted to correct those numbers.

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