Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 10 February 2009) . . Page.. 480 ..
MR HARGREAVES: I thank Ms Burch for the question. This government welcomes the important initiative by the commonwealth government to support jobs and invest in the future long-term economic growth of the nation. Such investment is unprecedented and will have lasting benefit for Australia as a whole and for the ACT.
A key element of the stimulus package is $6.4 billion for social housing. This will include the construction of 20,000 new social housing dwellings within three years, primarily for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Also provided will be funding for urgent maintenance to upgrade around 2,500 social houses that would otherwise be unusable as social housing.
The specific objectives of the initiative are to increase the supply of social housing through new construction and the refurbishment of existing stock that would otherwise be unavailable for occupancy; to provide increased opportunities for persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to gain secure, long-term accommodation; and to stimulate the building and construction industry both through funding the additional dwellings and increasing expenditure on repairs and maintenance. This will also help stimulate businesses that supply construction materials and help retain jobs in the industry.
The dwellings built will meet the needs of people on public housing waiting lists, including age and disability pensioners, people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island descent and women and children escaping violence; in other words, to house some of the most vulnerable in our community, which is already the focus of the Stanhope government’s policies for public housing. Also, it is estimated that the new dwellings will reduce by 50 per cent waiting time for people with high housing needs who are on public housing lists nationally. This will allow the ACT to build on the reforms to public housing waiting lists that have already been implemented.
The package is very advantageous to the ACT. The ACT’s share of the funds to be channelled into social housing will be $102 million, $96 million of which will provide for the construction of around 290 homes over 3½ years, with the balance of $6 million being used for the maintenance of around 140 properties.
The additional properties and maintenance expenditure will provide significant flexibility in the management of the public housing property portfolio. For example, Housing ACT will be able to construct properties in high-demand areas. The flow-on effect will be to make more suitable properties available to some tenants who may choose properties with fewer bedrooms, which better suit their needs. This will free up homes that can then be allocated to applicants that need larger dwellings.
Also, as properties age and maintenance costs increase, Housing ACT is often faced with the decision to dispose of properties that require significant amounts of maintenance to be undertaken. The injection of these much-needed maintenance dollars will result in the retention of properties and, ultimately, a continued increase in property numbers.
The ACT is well placed to meet the timeframes because the territory has control of the land supply and an established panel of builders. Housing ACT already has a number