Page 889 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 2 April 2008

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territory, with over 11½ thousand properties. In addition, the community housing sector manages over 600 tenancies. These properties represent approximately nine per cent of the total housing stock within the ACT. The ACT has a higher proportion of public housing than anywhere else in Australia. This government is committed to maintaining public housing numbers, as opposed to the previous Liberal government’s intention of reducing public housing numbers. I suspect that a future Liberal government will reduce the number as quickly as they can.

This government is committed to retaining the most affordable housing at high levels to ensure that, for those most in need, we are able to limit the amount they need to spend on housing and maximise expenditure for other daily necessities. This government retains a strong commitment to public and community housing as a means of delivering affordable housing.

Against the backdrop of the housing affordability challenge, the government has positioned public housing so that it is principally targeted to those most in need and has revised allocation categories so that timely allocations are made to applicants with priority needs. In the recently released Report on government services 2007, Housing ACT ranked highly in a number of key areas. Importantly, this included the proportion of new housing allocations going to clients in great need. In the ACT, 86.5 per cent of new allocations now go to applicants in urgent need of housing, compared to 38.1 per cent nationally. Let me repeat that: in the ACT, 86.5 per cent go to applicants in urgent need compared to 38.1 per cent nationally.

In early June 2006, the government embarked on a series of reforms to further sharpen its focus on people most in need of public housing assistance. Those applicants who have needs and risk factors such as homelessness, mental health, serious medical issues, women escaping domestic violence and/or children at significant risk are eligible for priority allocation. Priority housing applicants are limited to 150 at any one time, with the expectation that these will be housed within three months. I am delighted to say that the new system is showing significant improvements.

To date, the average waiting time for priority applicants is 68 days compared to an average waiting time under the previous system of nine months for priority applicants. In addition, Housing ACT’s stock restructuring program is continuing to ensure that it best meets existing and future client needs. The government has opened up home ownership opportunities for their tenants and will introduce a shared equity scheme. Under this scheme public housing tenants will be able to buy a percentage of their house from the government. They can buy additional percentages as their circumstances improve and permit. This will allow people who might not otherwise be able to enter the housing market to enjoy the benefits of home ownership.

The government has been working on developing a scheme that is appropriate for the ACT. Shared equity schemes are not uncommon, being run by various state housing authorities around Australia. However, it will be a new concept here in Canberra and, as such, it will be important to make sure that people who want to participate enter into it fully aware of what the scheme entails and do not over-commit themselves.

The government has recognised the important role that community housing plays in assisting those Canberrans on low to moderate incomes, particularly those who do not

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