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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 321 ..

MR WOOD: Mr Speaker, the loss of 80 houses is a lot to make up for. As well as that, about 170 were damaged to varying degrees by the wind or the fire, or both. As you have said, gardens and fences were damaged, too. Therefore, there has been a huge impact on ACT Housing tenants and, I might say, prospective housing tenants. How? The waiting lists, which were long beforehand, are now even longer. Of more relevance, it took some time for priority housing to come through. The time is now longer, because we have had to fit in lots of people. We have taken those people who have been affected by the bushfires, who lost their houses, and put them at the top of the list. We have put them straight into another house, or we have offered that to them.

The extended waiting period has caused a great deal of concern in the community. People who knew that they were getting close to the top of that list are saying, "What about me?"I think that that is a fair question. Those in the community interested in housing are asking about it. For example, it was discussed at Monday's meeting of ACT Shelter, the peak body in that sector. The simple fact is that many people are already experiencing very severe housing difficulties. The problem is even more severe now.

In handling the problem that emerged, ACT Housing has responded rapidly and appropriately-very well, I might say-to those householders affected by the disaster. I commend the staff for the dedication they have shown, the hard work they have done and the sympathy they have again demonstrated to their tenants.

We have attempted to lessen the impact by withdrawing houses that were scheduled for sale because of their condition, for the most part. We have brought them back into use and are returning them for at least short-term accommodation to those affected by the bushfires. We are also endeavouring to purchase additional suitable properties from the market.

Of the 80 houses destroyed, my memory tells me that 77 or 78 of the tenants have sought a house. Sadly, one of our tenants died in the fires and one or two have moved on from Canberra, so we do not quite have 80 tenants to relocate. We have rehoused 45 of our former tenants. Most of those, I might say, were rehoused within the first two weeks, certainly the first three weeks.

There are people who, quite fairly and reasonably, have precise wishes to be met and ACT Housing just is not able to accommodate some of those wishes. That is particularly the case for people from the rural properties who would desperately like to go back there but we just do not have any empty houses back there to offer them. There are some still there, but they have tenants in them. Of those not yet satisfied, a very large proportion are from the rural areas.

We are bending over backwards. Normally, when you are offered a house by ACT Housing you get two choices: you can knock back the first one, but you have to take the second. We have not done that. Multiple offers have been made to some people to try to adjust to their needs. We are trying our best to fit them in.

As well as the properties lost, there was damage to others. That has been a bigger factor than many have realised. The good news is that we are insured for the necessary affairs and reinstatements and we are working well with the insurers and assessors to address the issues as quickly as possible.

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