Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Friday, 27 June 2008) . . Page.. 2315 ..
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (9.37): I would be interested to know what position the ACT government has taken or is taking to the national affordable housing agreement. One of the factors behind the increasing housing unaffordability over the past 20 years, which predates the Howard government’s taxation disaster, was the state governments’ divestment of public housing.
The housing market is not homogenous, and public housing, where there is sufficient supply, is a buffer to the market in lower cost housing. I am not going to take time now to go over the arguments about the role of a diverse and expanding supply of public housing, which would include a social mix of residents, supported by a proportion of people paying realistic market rents, where there is no stigma attached to being a public housing resident and where there is an adequate supply for people in demonstrable need.
Mrs Burke talked about poor people who cannot access housing at the moment. I must say there is a little bit of a contradiction there, because I do believe that Mrs Burke would be throwing them out the minute they had a large enough income and she deemed that they could be living in the private rental market. I have detected over the years that I have been here many contradictions in Mrs Burke’s attitude to public housing.
Unfortunately, the growing perception of government services such as public housing as having the sole purpose as a safety net for people in dire straits—and only the deserving ones at that—has resulted in a diminution in the role of public housing and an increasing marginalisation of public housing tenants. I am interested then to learn if there is going to be any change in the climate of judgementalism which has swept over Australia in the past 15 years, and what attitudes and intent the ACT government, through Housing ACT, will bring to the national affordable housing agreement negotiations.
It is worth reminding the Assembly that the Council on the Ageing, ACT Shelter, ACTCOSS and the youth coalition, among others, were both concerned and disappointed that there was not a greater investment in Housing ACT in this budget. We have seen the tightening up of access to public housing and the introduction of rules that will probably push more people out. We know that a shared equity scheme is to be established, which will encourage people on low and middle incomes to buy their government home. What we do not know is if houses thus removed from the public housing stock will be replaced or if we will see the erosion in numbers that we have seen over the last 10 years. In answer to a question on notice from me, the minister acknowledged that these changes will put pressure on the service and increase the average cost per tenancy, resulting in a diminished supply unless there is a balancing increase in investment.
I note that the home loan portfolio now has about $17 million sitting around in investments. I believe it would be appropriate once again to transfer the bulk of these funds into Housing ACT for new stock.
Many public housing tenancies are complex, and these are the ones that attract the most attention. I just want to mention here the reaction of Mrs Burke to the really