Page 2320 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008

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barbecue with the neighbours and this person.” I just cannot believe the sort of solutions that people are putting up. I said, “You have got to be kidding.” Some of these older people are in terror of the tenant. Okay, maybe such tenants are not considered to be criminally insane—they may not be likely to kill anybody or injure them—but when given that as a solution I went back to my office in a state of bewilderment. As I say, this is political correctness gone to the extreme.

That person is in the absolute centre of the complex so it is very hard for tenants to avoid them. Of course, the problem being faced is: where does this person go? Unless someone engaging in that behaviour is actually going to the point of breaking the law and causing violent consequences to people, we do not have solutions in this territory, in my view, to deal with it. Certainly, none have been put forward to me. It is one case, but it is symptomatic of what I think are issues plaguing our housing system.

On a more positive note, I am glad to see that the government are moving away from the idea of large public housing estates and attempting to spread their properties more diversely, both geographically and in terms of the kind of dwellings they purchase. This should bring positive effects. There are reductions in the kind of antisocial and violent behaviour that often occur in large public housing estates. There are examples in the city, and there are much more celebrated examples in places like Melbourne, where they built, as they were nicknamed, the Bolte towers of Richmond. They are still there. They are full of Vietnamese gangs, crime, drug dealing and the like. They were a mistake in the seventies when they were put up; they should never have been constructed in any community because they just lead to dreadful situations. I am pleased the government is saying, “We are getting away from this approach.”

There are more options for tenants and greater flexibility to accommodate people with different public housing needs if you do not just have these standard, uniform multi-dwelling facilities. I do not think that large-scale public housing is either necessary or the solution to housing problems in the ACT. It is certainly my preference to see people encouraged to enter the private market whenever possible and become autonomous from the government. Even though I know that the opposition have criticised the new land rent scheme, to me it gives some group in Canberra a chance to get into the housing market. Anything we can do to give people their own sense of autonomy, their own home, even with limitations in their financial position, I think is a good step forward for people’s self-respect.

Where public housing does exist, it is crucial to ensure that Housing ACT enforces proper standards to ensure that residents are not negatively affected by bad tenants. There are certainly opportunities for further reform in this area. However, I am glad to see that the government is moving away from the previous model of large-scale public housing concentrated in large complexes.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (10.00): I have a number of very significant concerns that need to be put on the record on the issue of public government provided housing. The government has a responsibility to select tenants for government housing who are most needy but who also can be trusted to be good neighbours. Good neighbours do not have to be extroverts—they can keep entirely to their own private lives—but they should at least be peaceful, law-abiding and respectful of others.

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