Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 19 August 2008) . . Page.. 3242 ..
Of course, it should not be thought that these increases in taxes only affect property owners. Taxes and charges which fall onto property owners are passed on to renters in the rental market. As far as I am concerned, I interpret housing affordability in the broader sense of that phrase. It does not just affect people who want to buy a new home; it affects people who are in the rental market. The ACTCOSS people were in here this week, and they told me that was one of the biggest single issues. They are just trying to get people who are coming out of programs into rental accommodation and, of course, they cannot afford it. These things are all directly related to issues of supply and demand and taxation.
I know that the Liberal Party have got initiatives in relation to stamp duty for first homebuyers. Whilst that might be welcome in itself, it is a very narrow policy and I would much prefer to see a broad-based attack on the high level of taxation in the ACT. They have certainly shown from their voting patterns that they are not committed to tax reduction, as they have voted against the repeal of the fire and emergency services levy.
In conclusion, I think there is more to this whole story than we have heard so far, and I will leave my contribution at that point.
MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (4.23): For a number of years, the Chief Minister has been putting out media releases trumpeting the affordability of housing in the ACT. That is, of course, while private rents surged in the wake of spiralling median house prices. On 6 September 2006, he put out a media release headed “ACT housing affordability best in nation” and telling us that “the ACT’s housing is the most affordable in Australia and actually improved over a 12-month period”.
You have to give it to Mr Stanhope, Mr Speaker; he would get an Olympic medal if they awarded them for being in denial. It was reported in the Canberra Times on 25 July that, according to Australian Property Monitors, Canberra private rental prices are continuing to rise dramatically, with median weekly asking rents for houses and units up by five and 10 per cent respectively on the past year. The median weekly asking rents for houses in Canberra rose from $390 in June last year to $410 in June this year. Canberra’s median is higher than in Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart, whose median rents range from $235 to $350.
Over the term of the Stanhope Labor government, there has been a drop of 59 per cent in the affordability of housing. In the March quarter, affordability in the ACT slipped another 16 per cent—more than for any other Australian capital city. Much of this is due to the Stanhope government’s slowness in releasing land and its hike of property taxes, particularly in the 2006-07 budget, when residential property taxes rose by up to 45 per cent, even in the poor areas of Canberra, and property taxes on commercial properties rose by up to 60 per cent.
The ACT has the highest per capita rate of public housing in Australia, with assets of over $3 billion in value. But in the 2006-07 budget, the Stanhope government slashed the ACT housing budget by $33 million over three years. In the same budget, the government slashed the waiting list of around 2,000 people for public housing by half.