Page 2371 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 5 August 2015

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These findings are not of any real surprise, but will, I am sure, help guide the ACT government’s ongoing response to the issues of housing and homelessness.

That leads me to the motion before us. I will be supporting Minister Berry’s amendment to Ms Lawder’s motion today, as I think it both captures the issues at play a little better and also provides a clearer, more achievable and more tangible outcome.

Housing affordability, as we all know, is a vexed issue to pin down and define, particularly in the ACT, with our widely disparate gap between the highest and lowest incomes. And the issues of supply, land releases, developments and the new type of stock coming online are issues that keep economists awake at night and arguing throughout the day. The simplest response we hear in this place is to build more houses—build more and use government levers to ensure that a portion of all new housing developments are for social and affordable housing.

I note that Ms Lawder’s motion makes a point to reference Mr Stanhope’s comments regarding housing affordability. I think it is only fair to say that reports I have had from people who attended not just the opening statements but the full forum panel discussions were that there was a range of views about the issues. I understand that there were presentations from others there saying that the land release and supply program had in fact been very successful. While I am not making a judgement on these views, it is worth noting the divergence.

To be fair to the existing affordable action plan, now in phase 3, I believe, the government is taking action to improve housing affordability; but I accept that, partly due to the definition issues I outlined before and partly due to the economic realities of low incomes and changing employment, it is not the cure for the entire system. The same can be said for some of the commonwealth programs, such as the national rental affordability scheme, which in some cases saw properties being labelled as affordable when they were so in name only for many Canberrans.

We as a government and as a society, in partnership with the community and private sectors, need to explore new models and new ways of doing things. I am sure Ms Lawder is aware of some of these models, such as increased community housing, affordable rental programs and public-private partnerships operating in other jurisdictions. I agree we can do better and would like to see issues such as first home ownership for public housing tenants given new energy, and considerations of shared equity expanded, for example.

Ms Berry’s amendment also does greater justice to the complexity of the issues. As the recently handed down report of the Australian Senate inquiry into housing affordability found:

The committee does not believe the issue of housing affordability in Australia is rightly categorised as either a ‘supply-side problem’ or a ‘demand-side problem’.

Instead, the committee provided a range of recommendations directed primarily toward improving home purchase affordability. They include recommending that state

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