Page 2552 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005
The private sector cannot be absolved from its responsibilities. The pressures on public housing in particular reflect, in part, the failure of the private housing market to respond to the needs of people on low incomes. Home ownership is a primary form of tenure in the ACT. This government has moved to assist low to moderate income first home buyers through the provision of stamp duty concessions. After an initially slow take-up rate, eligibility was broadened and the scheme is now delivering considerable savings to home purchasers. In the year to April 2005, there have been 1,360 approved applications, representing a subsidy from the government of some $8.3 million.
The price of land is of course another important factor in housing affordability. The ACT government’s land sales program is designed to achieve, as closely as possible, equilibrium between land supply and demand. In 2003-04, the actual land releases totalled 2,961. This was in excess of the forecast by 566 sites, providing ongoing supply to meet very high demand and ensuring that land prices remain as stable and affordable as possible. Further, in the 2004-05 budget, we introduced an initiative to assist low to moderate income earners to purchase affordable housing blocks. We provided for the release of up to 100 blocks each year, for five years, to be sold through a restricted ballot process.
Since the report of the affordable housing task force, we have also considered a range of planning issues to contribute to affordable housing initiatives. The first such measure is the provision in the City West master plan which aims to ensure a minimum of five per cent of residential accommodation in this precinct is offered for low and medium income earners and, where possible, managed by affordable housing providers. I urge members and the public to carefully review the housing affordability report I have tabled today. In this way, they will be able to fully appreciate the many initiatives in progress across a very broad front.
How successful have we been in improving housing affordability? What we do know is that house prices have come off their record highs and that market forecasters such as BIS Shrapnel predict median house prices in the ACT will fall slightly over the next three years. Housing affordability is improving as a consequence. While ACT rents remain relatively high, there has been little to no growth in median local rents over the last four quarters. Across the board, I believe our housing and community assistance measures are delivering positive affordability outcomes. The effectiveness of our strategies is reflected in our performance in delivering the territory’s principal source of affordable housing supply, public housing.
According to the key national performance indicators, we lead the way in allocating new public housing to those most in need. Our proportion of public housing to private housing is almost twice the national average and we also expend considerably more on public housing on a per capita basis than any other jurisdiction. After all, public housing remains the most affordable housing option for low income families. Here in the ACT, we are spending more and maintaining a greater proportion of public housing than any other state and territory. Moreover, available public housing is being provided to those in greatest need, at a rate that far exceeds the national average. That is important to note.
In conclusion, it is clear that the affordability picture that emerges from this report is one of ongoing challenges with a positive outlook. However, the single most important