Page 3465 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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Housing affordability

DR FOSKEY: My question is to the Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services. Minister, you have claimed, including in the report entitled “Progress on affordable housing in the ACT” of 30 June, that a spike in the rental vacancy rate to 5.6 per cent in December 2004 indicated a softening in the private rental market that was likely to lead to greater affordability. Could you please explain why you have chosen to ignore more recent data regarding the vacancy rate which saw it drop to a record low of 2.3 per cent in the March quarter, with a marginal change to 2.5 per cent in the June quarter, which contradicts your prediction of any softening and any likelihood of improved affordability?

MR HARGREAVES: One of the big issues for us at the moment is the affordability of housing for people on low incomes, ones quite likely to be even lower with the imminent industrial relations reform. People with disabilities are going to be $122 a week worse off, thanks very much to the federal government’s IR reforms. They will be in a lesser position to be able to afford to rent in the private marketplace than they are at the moment.

I respond to Dr Foskey by saying that predictions are predictions, but there is a reality out there and the reality out there is that the market is one for the home owners, not one for the persons doing the renting. With a very low vacancy rate, rents can be higher than they would be with a higher vacancy rate. That is quite clear. It concerns me that the rents in this town are so high—such that people on low incomes just cannot afford to rent in the private marketplace and are coming onto the public housing list.

I can, through a variety of initiatives, influence the cost of public housing rentals, but the private sector also have to accept some responsibility in this regard. The private sector have to consider whether they actually have a social responsibility attached to them for the profits that they are reaping from those rental properties. I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that they do.

Mr Smyth: They are paying off the loans.

Mrs Burke: Yes, looking after their own retirement. That would be terrible!

MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, could you do something about the hum, please?

MR SPEAKER: Order! There are too many conversations going on.

Mr Pratt: He is not stimulating us.

MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, I could soon fix that, but I shall resist the temptation.

MR SPEAKER: Just come to the subject matter of the question.

MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, instead of having complaints from those opposite and occasionally from the crossbench, whilst acknowledging Dr Foskey’s particular

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