Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4255 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

also announced a series of reforms aimed at removing barriers to accessing public housing in the ACT and to maintain sustainable tenancies. And one of my commitments to Ms Tucker was to indicate that there are other proposals coming. As I heard her today, I think she has got a few more down the track.

These measures that I have announced today will practically address a number of identified causes of homelessness in the territory. Historically, a number of Canberra's homeless have been evicted from public housing properties. Unfortunately for some people, even public housing can become unaffordable, and homelessness results.

People who find themselves in this situation include ACT Housing tenants, usually women escaping from domestic or family violence, where the public housing lease is in both names. I will be amending the policy guidelines in this area to ensure that the special circumstances of domestic violence victims are adequately recognised and that people in this circumstance are no longer excluded from public housing because of a debt from a previous tenancy.

Another area of concern involves people who enter into residential psychiatric rehabilitation or residential rehabilitation for gambling or substance addiction. Currently people in residential rehabilitation have to pay public housing rent, which is 25 per cent of their income, as well as 75 per cent of the value of their Centrelink benefit as a residential fee. They are paying two rents, as it were.

Most people in public or community housing find it far too difficult to pay 100 per cent of their income in this way, leaving little or nothing for food and other essentials. Service and support providers inform the government that often people simply do not enter rehabilitation in order to avoid becoming homeless at the end of that rehabilitation. We propose to remove the burden of public rental payments during residential rehabilitation. There will be a drop in the rent to a minimum payment of $5 a week, effectively removing the double payment to governments.

There is also a small category of tenants who may be ineligible, at least temporarily, for a pension or benefit and for whom the $20 minimum public housing rental can represent a significant burden. I am announcing that the minimum rental for these people in these circumstances will also be reduced to $5 a week.

The next announcement is a pretty significant one, changing history. I also intend to waive the normal and longstanding requirement that tenants pay an amount equal to two weeks rent in advance at the time of entering a new tenancy. And that's a very, very significant change. They do not have to put two weeks up in advance. This is a reform that would make housing more affordable at the beginning of a tenancy, when the costs of setting up a household are considerable.

The government is also moving further to assist public housing tenants experiencing debt in general. I will be establishing a debt review committee that will review individual cases and advise on the waiving of debt, the allocation of debt between co-tenants and the provision of enhanced support services. This is a further step. We already have preventing-eviction arrangements, but this then is another step beyond that.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .