Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 30 November 2017) . . Page.. 5420 ..
MADAM SPEAKER: No intimidation, please.
MR PARTON: My question is to the Minister for Housing and Suburban Development. Minister, the Canberra Times today has a report on the plight of low income renters and their struggle to survive. In this regard, SQM Research recently reported that Canberra house rents had risen 14.4 per cent in the past year and unit rents 4.4 per cent. These increases far exceed the ACT average weekly earnings increase. Minister, what are you going to say to a student who comes to you to tell you that she is sleeping in a car because she cannot afford rental accommodation in Canberra?
MS BERRY: I did read that report, and I thank Mr Parton for bringing it to the attention of the Assembly today. The calls by ACTCOSS, by Susan Helyar and others, are that one of the fundamental issues around affordability for rental properties across the country, including the ACT, is a real need to adjust the payments, the income, for recipients of welfare and students who are studying away from home, improving their income so that they have the ability to afford rental properties.
I have advocated for those kinds of equality measures in the past, and continue to do so, to ensure that people on low incomes, poor people in our community, have some chance of living and gaining the same kinds of goals and aspirations that the rest of us have in this community.
One of the things that the ACT government is doing is applying a land tax to vacant investment properties from next year. That should free up some more rental properties into the market. For a person who came to me and said that they were living in a car, I would make sure that they were supported appropriately and put them in touch with housing support services to make sure that they could be accommodated or provided with other kinds of accommodation. If Mr Parton or anyone were aware of anybody living in those circumstances, I would hope that they would bring it to my attention.
MR PARTON: When will you lift your restrictions on land release to address the needs of low-income Canberrans?
MS BERRY: There are no restrictions on land release. We release over 4,000 properties a year. We are releasing more than our target for this year and we will continue to do that.
MS LAWDER: Minister, why is your government making it so hard for people on low incomes to live in Canberra with increases in rents of 14.4 per cent over the past year?
MS BERRY: That is simply not true. The ACT government is doing everything it can to support people on low incomes. The ACT government were not the ones cheering on the cuts to penalty rates for low income earners in this town. Over 20,000 people in