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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 30 March 2017) . . Page.. 1373 ..

proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, the Speaker has determined that the matter proposed by Ms Le Couteur be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The importance of affordable housing in the ACT.

MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (3.56): Obviously I will be talking about the importance of affordable housing in the ACT today. While our city is, on the whole, quite affluent and our citizens well off, there is an undercurrent, a hidden poverty, which makes finding appropriate, affordable housing a challenge. Rising house prices, sluggish wage growth, rising costs of living have left many of our city’s most vulnerable out of luck and unlikely ever to find themselves in secure, long-term housing that does not ruin them financially or socially.

For too long, our government, and all Australian governments, have accepted that housing is just another commodity to be bought and sold to make a profit for the rich. Housing is now too expensive not for just the poorest of our residents, not for just the lowest socio-economic quintile, but for nearly a third of our residents who feel housing stress. There seems to be an ever-widening gap between the rich, the middle class and the poor in this city and we have an obligation to ensure that all of our residents can have a roof over their head.

As jobs get scarcer, wages do not rise and housing gets harder to pay for, we see the quality of life go down for many people. We know that if you do not have stable housing you almost certainly will not be able to maintain stable employment and you will not be able to participate in the normal life of all Australians.

Our property market struggles to offer housing that is suitable to the needs of people with disabilities, older people, younger people and families and single people on low incomes. These are households with less than $90,000 a year income. In 2016 about 20,000 households in the ACT faced housing stress, and single parents were amongst the hardest hit. Housing stress is defined as households which spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs. And it affects two in every five single-parent households in the ACT.

Research undertaken by ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter found a significant intersection between gender inequality and housing inequality. This is because the majority of single-parent households in Canberra are headed by women. Women also generally earn less than men, work part time more often and dominate the health and welfare, child care, aged and disability care, hospitality and tourism industries which generally have lower wages and where penalty rates are now under threat.

Many of these single-parent households pay a significant proportion of their income on housing, leaving little for the other necessities of life. They find themselves compromising on groceries, health and other medical appointments. They cannot always provide their children with extracurricular activities like sport, music et cetera, and this can have a significant impact on development, educational attainment, wellbeing and inclusion.

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