Page 3195 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 19 August 2008

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DR FOSKEY: I move amendments Nos 3 and 4 circulated in my name together [see schedule 1 at page 3291].

These amendments would ensure that the commissioner for housing would be able to intervene only in regard to affordable housing providers and not when it comes to community housing providers. I would like to read some of the comments that were sent to the government about this matter by community housing providers:

Community housing providers should not be subject to constitutional change and intervention provisions. Housing providers are alarmed at the extension to community housing providers of regulatory controls clearly designed for affordable housing providers.

As previously mentioned, community housing providers do not require the same level of regulatory oversight as affordable housing providers because they do not receive transfers of government assets, or access new capital injections, or public loan facilities. While they manage ACT housing properties, these remain in public ownership and are only head-leased to community housing providers and cannot be borrowed against or otherwise disposed of.

The appropriate regulatory responses to gross mismanagement by community housing providers are: cessation of funding, return of any head-lease properties and deregistration as a community housing provider. We submit that these avenues are sufficient regulatory controls on community housing providers and further regulatory capacities, such as requiring approval for constitutional changes, direct board appointments, appointment of an administrator or winding-up the provider, are unnecessary and disproportionate.

Community housing providers may also have other areas of interest and activity and it is feasible that even if they cease to be a registered housing provider they may have other operations and assets funded independently, or by other agencies, that should not be controlled or appropriated by the Housing Commissioner. ACT housing providers strongly urge the government to amend the bill to remove any application of sections 25O, 25P and 25S to community housing providers as they are only appropriate for affordable housing providers, to protect the substantial investment of public and private funds envisaged for those providers.

Community housing providers support a requirement that changes to the constitution or rules must be reported to the Commissioner within 14 days after the changes occur or are approved by the relevant registrar, whichever is the later. This requirement could be included in the monitoring guidelines for community housing providers.

Most particularly, I do not believe the government has yet demonstrated why it needs the power of veto on any constitutional changes. I understand the rationale here is that the housing commissioner would not refuse to approve a change to the constitution or the rules of a community housing provider unless he or she was satisfied that such a change would make the provider ineligible for registration. Also, under this bill, providers would not need to apply to the commissioner for approval of minor changes, but the determination of what is and what is not a minor change is in the commissioner’s hands.

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