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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4252 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

bond loan repayments plus the applicant's rental payments under the Residential Tenancy Agreement does not exceed 40 per cent of the household income.

The government has said in response that, while the standard repayment time will be around 20 fortnights, they will be flexible in negotiating affordable repayments for people with a good payment record, possibly over a longer time frame. I note that a similar issue may arise if a tenancy breaks down and there may need to be flexibility and compassion in renegotiating repayment if the bond is needed in a hurry for another tenancy or some similar circumstance.

I would also like to make a brief comment on my proposal to allow applicants to be treated as borrowers in common rather than strictly joint borrowers. This is not one that the government was prepared to pick up at this stage. I am disappointed as I believe this would at least set an equitable starting point for pursuits of moneys owed.

The prevention and early support programs and some mechanism for helping people to work through their debts will certainly improve the outcomes when debts arise or when a household breaks up and/or when domestic violence leads to damage to the house and family breakdown. However, I believe that structuring in this recognition of division of responsibility will make the starting point in negotiations and in pursuit of debts much more equitable.

And finally, on the topic of debt: I had proposed that eligibility for this program be open to people who have a debt to ACT Housing. I expect that people who will be needing this assistance will include those who have got into arrears on their rent or are on the waiting list and are not able to access public housing because of an old debt or possibly waiting on an appeal process. All still obviously need somewhere to live.

The government is not prepared to take up this proposal as there are concerns that the program not get into financial difficulties. I note that there were suggestions in the development process that the program be run as a grant, possibly at least to those at the lower end of eligibility. This would provide a kind of nest egg and would avoid the problem of repayments. I would like to suggest as a compromise that useful consideration be given to allowing access to the bond loan program when a functioning debt repayment arrangement is in place and set at a manageable level.

I want to thank members for giving me time to make these comments for the record. Thanks to the government for the work on these issues, I believe we will see an improved program in the revised instrument and look forward also to other improvements in the housing system.

MR WOOD (Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Art and Heritage) (6.06): Mr Speaker, I tabled the rental bonds housing assistance program on 19 August. That fulfilled an election promise of this government. Subsequently Ms Tucker entered a disallowance motion indicating a range of issues that she wanted dealt with. We have had, as Ms Tucker says, discussions about those and what we believe is achievable under the program and what isn't. As a result of the agreement we have come to, Ms Tucker has withdrawn that disallowance motion. I believe that the

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