Page 2313 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008
Where such people are now living is of continuing concern to me. Often, we hear of them sleeping in cars, in caravans or, worse still, on the floor of friends’ houses. So it is an area of concern to me. I think more work needs to be done to see where these people who have slipped through the cracks are actually now sleeping. It is concerning, because I know that at the time Mr Hargreaves said, “Well, they’re the people who don’t need to be on the list anyway.” But if we have slashed that eligibility threshold from $1,000 to $700, that is of great concern to me.
So what has changed? Even with these questionable reforms, those in the highest need category now wait, on average, for 111 days—44 days higher than last year—with the second highest needs category waiting, on average, 341 days, or 86 days higher than last year.
There continues to be a very slow turnaround time on preparing housing properties for tenants to move into. We have heard cases of places sitting idle for as long as five months. At the moment, there are nearly 371 properties sitting idle and, worse still, we are hearing of an alarming trend of maintenance and thorough cleaning of properties not being carried out until a tenant has actually moved in.
The 2006-07 budget papers indicated that Housing ACT, under the Stanhope Labor government, was only managing 11,272 properties—127 fewer than under the last Liberal government in the ACT. As I said, there are now around 11,600 properties, but that was a very late catch-up.
Antisocial and disruptive behaviour continues to be a major issue in public housing, and the government has generally ignored the problem. There were 592 complaints about disruptive behaviour in the last financial year, and there are 23 suburbs across Canberra affected by the minority of public housing tenants who cause serious social problems, including damaging the property of neighbours, noise, harassment and assault.
I do remember in this place that a previous housing minister, Mr Wood, always used to attack me and say, “You’re having a go at public housing tenants.” Let the house be assured that this is not a problem about public housing tenants; it is a problem raised many times by public housing tenants about other public housing tenants. And, yes, it does happen in the private sector, but, all too sadly, disadvantage, and the low socioeconomic issues related to people in public housing, tend to foster this particular type of behaviour.
As the St Vincent de Paul chief noted, the government’s affordable housing strategy would not help those in need. He said it was disappointing that there were still nil additional works for social housing. This was despite the sector’s direct housing support and outreach work increasing by around 25 per cent every six months. Similarly, Ara Cresswell, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service, said it was disappointing that, with a large surplus of over $80 million, there was no real investment in public or community housing.
This budget has failed to address significant wastage within Housing ACT. For example, the housing maintenance contract is in a shambles, with the principal