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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (4 March) . . Page.. 470 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

investigate reform of our betterment tax system to make it financially attractive for developers to build affordable housing.

In the private rental market, the housing affordability task force reported on the trends of affordability of new private rentals in the ACT, and every district has shown a strong decline in people being able to access affordable housing over the past five years. We have seen these declines most evidently in our outlying areas, and these areas have changed from being among the most affordable in 1998 to among the least affordable in 2002.

These are quite strong indicators that we need to look seriously at how the private rental market is working and how the public housing market is working, as well as focusing on how we can improve the laws relating to the buying and selling of houses, particularly in the area of gazumping. I hope that the government will not be content with a token measure of outlawing gazumping, when this is only the tip of the iceberg that is our affordable housing crisis.

MR STEFANIAK (3.55): Mr Speaker, I am interested in why Mr Hargreaves is bringing this on now, given that the government's paper has been out since June of last year. Nevertheless, I think it is timely. It is a very serious problem, and there are a number of possible solutions. I look forward to seeing what the government is going to come down with.

Mr Hargreaves is quite right to say that a shake of the hand is simply not enough, even though a lot of people think it is. Even a note from the real estate agent saying the property has been sold is not enough. Here, until a contract is actually signed and exchanged, it is not legally binding.

Gazumping can occur not only in a market such as this. This is a more typical time, when there aren't many properties on the market, there are lots of buyers and people are very keen to get in-even more so now because of the fires when a lot of people who have been burnt out are looking to either rebuild or, in some, instances, buy somewhere else. This is a timely discussion. Property is in short supply, and this is a classic time when gazumping can occur.

My office gets a number of calls, on a not irregular basis, from people who are very concerned about the practice of gazumping. It is something that we, as legislators, need to sort out and sort out quickly.

In a market like this, it is of detriment to the buyer and a benefit to the seller. Conversely-and we have seen in Canberra the bust times as well as the boom times, when people are very keen to try to get rid of their property and there are just no buyers there-it can be very difficult for a seller. Indeed, the reverse could happen, whereby a seller might think they have finally got a contract and then the buyer pulls out. So it can occur there as well. But when most people think of gazumping, they think of a buyer being gazumped. It applies both ways.

It even applies in relation to rent. I have heard of people being gazumped in rent. They think they have got a deal, going into a rental accommodation for, say, $240 a week.

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