Page 1988 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 3 June 2015

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My understanding is that we used to have around 12 to 13 per cent public housing. That has reduced to now around eight per cent. Part of that driver was the sell-off by the Canberra Liberals at that time.

This reduction in public housing stock has had big implications for Canberra residents; it has reduced the number of people who have access to public housing, and put pressure on people who are not deemed high enough priority for the reduced number of available dwellings but cannot afford to purchase or even rent. I know that Ms Lawder is well aware of the impacts on the second quintile, through her work with Homelessness Australia. It is not just a numbers game; it is also a people game. This change, this sell-off, that the Canberra Liberals undertook in Mr Smyth’s time as minister has also meant that the diversity of public housing residents has reduced and the number of market renters has severely reduced, directly reducing the level of income going into the budget and the resulting available maintenance budget for the properties that Housing ACT maintains.

Ms Lawder’s points (f) and (h) in her motion, read together, are again something that I agree with; I genuinely appreciate her ongoing interest and intention. The resettlement of public housing tenants may dislocate them from their community and important services. But I say “may” advisedly. The relocation of tenants from the Dickson towers, undertaken while I was the responsible minister, was done in collaboration with tenants and the community sector partner, in this case Canberra Men’s Centre. Housing ACT worked hard to find out what the tenants wanted and where they wanted to go, and then, as much as possible, supported that move. It may be worth noting that not all tenants wanted to stay in the inner north, for a variety of reasons. People moved to locations across Canberra, reflecting their engagement with employment, family needs and social supports. And while this was admittedly a small number of tenants, I believe that it serves as a positive example of the way things can be done and can be repeated. Again, in her remarks the minister went to some detail about the way that is being approached and the support mechanisms, both financial and otherwise, that are being offered to tenants as part of any relocation process.

I am sure we can all agree that ACT residents who are public housing tenants deserve safe and secure housing with access to transport, education and training opportunities, employment and support services. That is why the redevelopment of new housing across Canberra is so important. I would like to add that public housing tenants also deserve respect and privacy as they move into new areas—unlike the very unsavoury comments we have heard in recent weeks from residents in Nicholls.

Lastly, I would refer Ms Lawder to my previous comments. The government is committed, and the Greens are committed, to responding to the needs and preferences of tenants along the proposed Northbourne Avenue redevelopment site by providing accommodation within the 800-metre corridor, including Flemington Road in the inner north and city where possible—and, I should add, where requested by tenants. As we saw with the Dickson towers, not every tenant wants to remain in the corridor, but I believe we should always have a solid mix of social and affordable housing near the city and in the inner north. I point members to the fact that that was put out clearly in a press release, as I mentioned, in the middle of last year, and it was again repeated in Ms Berry’s amendments today.

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