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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 326 ..

Public housing

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received letters from Ms Tucker and Ms MacDonald proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, I have determined by lot that the matter proposed by Ms Tucker be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The responsibility of the government to ensure there is adequate public housing in the Territory and adequate social support for tenants suffering hardship.

MS TUCKER (3.48): The ACT, especially in recent years, has a notoriously tight rental market and some people, no matter their income, will never be accommodated in a market which can afford to be so selective. Public housing fills a role for people on low incomes-the very important role of a means for people to live as stable members of our community.

I was very pleased to see a report in a local paper recently where Mr Stefaniak acknowledged that there is a housing crisis. The less patient among us might wonder where he has been for the past six or seven years. However, I am encouraged to see that he is open to learning. There is a housing crisis and there has been for some time, particularly for people without much money, who are renting.

Mrs Burke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I am having trouble hearing, because there is a lot of background noise.

MR SPEAKER: This is a fair point, Mrs Burke. There is a bit too much conversation going on.

MS TUCKER: With the bushfires disaster throwing 500 households onto the street, and with a rebuilding exercise likely to attract a massive work force from interstate, the housing crisis acknowledged by Mr Stefaniak the other week is going to get much worse. There are two real issues the government needs to address. One is, very basically, the supply of housing and two is ensuring that there are community supports for people who get into trouble with their rent. This often means that there are underlying problems.

On the one hand, the previous ACT government, directed in part by the Commonwealth through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, has embarked on a project to narrow the scope of public housing to welfare housing. This saw a substantial drop in public housing stock until last year, and we are pleased to see a slight increase since then.

I should digress here, in order to congratulate this government for reinstating security of tenure for ACT Housing tenants. Security of tenure is really important in public housing's role as a point of stability for communities. Look at all the tenants of the month, and for people who are in and out of employment, or who have difficulties in their lives. I therefore congratulate the government for that move-it will help. It will also feed market rent into ACT Housing, which was acknowledged by the department during the inquiry into the role of public housing in the last Assembly, which I chaired.

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