Page 3156 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 22 August 2017
At 6 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly having been put and negatived, the debate was resumed.
MS LE COUTEUR: The question remains: where are these people residing while they are waiting? We can very safely assume they are living in housing stress, struggling to meet rental payments and power bills, living in cars, in unsafe shares. There are many options, and very few of them are good. I am sure I am not alone in expressing concern about the overall number of public housing properties reducing over time. Firstly, there is a projected shortfall of just over 100 properties in meeting the 2016-17 target. Secondly, the target for 2017-18 reduces this number by another 185 public housing properties.
While I recognise that the focus has rightly been on the public housing renewal program, I am concerned that we are not forward-looking enough to ensure that there is enough stock for future years. I can see from the budget papers that there is an expected increase of approximately 50 community housing properties, but that will not be sufficient to meet demand. The ACT population has grown by 11.2 per cent over the past five years and is currently at 406,403, according to the 2016 census. There has been an increase of 24,000 people in Gungahlin alone since 2011, and we can expect this trend to continue. Our population is projected to increase by between 4,000 and 5,000 per year. That, if nothing else, we learned out of the last election.
With six new suburbs under development, we must ensure that the rate of public housing is simultaneously increased along with the rate of non-public housing. By my calculations, our current rate of public housing sits at 7.7 per cent. If we want to maintain this percentage, or go to eight per cent or even to the dizzy heights of 10 per cent, which was the aspirational goal in the first Greens-Labor parliamentary agreement in the Seventh Assembly, we need a rolling program whereby the number of properties increases each year by, I calculate, 350 per annum at least. This would assist with a catch-up to appropriate levels and should be our minimum aim. There are currently over 154,000 dwellings in the ACT, and eight per cent would be 12,320 properties. That is why I support the important recommendation made by the estimates committee that the government should have an ongoing program of public housing renewal so that the proportion of public housing does not fall.
Another observation I would make is that, while a lot of the discussion about the location of the public housing renewal program has been unedifying, the positive thing that came out of it was the universal agreement, pretty much, that we do need public housing in this city. We value it and we need more of it.
Moving on to other things, I am very pleased to see the commitment of $525,000 to strengthen specialist homelessness services. It is an item in the parliamentary agreement and is an issue that I and the Greens feel strongly about. Whilst I note that the initiatives under this item include funds for the early morning centre, as specified in the parliamentary agreement, part of that is also for the housing and homelessness summit. I am really glad to see that this will happen, I believe, in October. I am glad