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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 October 2017) . . Page.. 4252 ..

The government has worked towards ensuring that people have support when making this transition. Work has been undertaken to help protect people from not having to unintentionally incur debt when trying to get established in the private rental market and this bill is part of that broader work. It seeks to regulate commercial rental guarantees for the protection of ACT consumers.

Under the proposed regulations the Commissioner for Fair Trading will approve standard guarantee contracts to ensure that they are fair to landlords and renters. Those with new ideas or products aimed at improving housing affordability are welcome to put them forward for Canberra, subject to these requirements.

I just recently held a housing and homelessness summit, the first for the ACT, to explore some of these possibilities and options. I launched at the summit an innovation fund to draw out possible affordable housing initiatives, but every initiative and every idea needs to be well thought out to ensure that it meets the need within our community. The government has continued and will continue to ensure that individuals in search of a home have laws that ensure their interests are protected. In developing these amendments the government has sought the expertise of key stakeholders in the rental housing sector.

The stakeholders the government has heard from have given clear and expert opinion, which I am grateful for. They want to support encouraging new initiatives that can make the affordable rental market more accessible to disadvantaged individuals and families, but they also agree that the long-term interests of financially vulnerable tenants who want to find secure homes must always come first.

It is in this context that the government is taking the opportunity to review our support for people who might be struggling in the rental market. Low and middle income earners who are able to sustain a tenancy in the private rental market but cannot afford a bond may be eligible for the ACT government’s rental bond loan scheme. The scheme offers up to 90 per cent of the rental bond amount under their tenancy agreement. The bond loans are interest free and are paid back to the ACT government over 20 months. People who qualify for a bond also receive a grant of $100 to help them sustain their tenancy.

From the tenant’s perspective the tenant will be required to pay back the loan to the government in full but with no interest and in a way which is affordable. From the lessor’s perspective they can claim on the bond in the same that they would have if the tenant had paid the bond in full. This applies whether or not the loan has been fully paid back to the government. This bill demonstrates that the ACT is engaged with new developments in the sector and has put the needs of vulnerable Canberrans at the forefront of our policy response on this issue.

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (4.03): I rise today to support the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2017. I welcome the move by the minister, in the bill, to regulate the new bond guarantee industry from the outset as part of the ACT government’s proactive approach in regulating new industries to ensure that they operate for the benefit of all Canberrans. I also welcome the move by the minister to facilitate the electronic payment of traditional bonds both online and through direct debit.

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