Page 1349 - Week 04 - Thursday, 12 April 2018

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and Refugee Settlement Services, has operated a scheme which enables people in that situation to have their house rented by a migrant or refugee family at a rent that that family can afford. It is usually based on very low Centrelink income rather than market rent. I believe that that scheme has recently transited to the Red Cross, and I am not as aware of its details there. But having had personal experience with the MARSS scheme, I do know that there is a cohort of landlords in Canberra who would definitely be interested in this.

Another one is home sharing. We see, particularly in the older suburbs of Canberra, many households which are not utilising all the space in their house. There is a real possibility that these houses could be better utilised to the mutual advantage of both the home owner and the potential tenant. These are people where putting an ad for a house share on Gumtree is not appropriate. They will often be older people who have lived in that house for a long time. Their family will have grown up; often their husband has died. Sharing the house would be something which would be positive for both them and a potential tenant. But it is something where some brokerage is needed to protect both the house owner and the potential tenant. It is something that has been done in other places in the world. I had a meeting with a group that is doing this in Melbourne very successfully. It is done to a very small extent in the ACT in the disability sector. There is clearly an opportunity for this to be much larger.

Then there is co-housing. I should say here that I was involved, quite heavily, in a previous attempt to have co-housing happen in the ACT, which failed. And I have some involvement in a group that was set up in Canberra a year or so ago to advance the co-housing cause in Canberra. That is something that I would personally like to see be successful.

I hope that these innovative applications will be part of the way that Canberra solves the current lack of affordable housing in Canberra. We have to do better. Part of it will be around public housing, but that cannot take up all the slack. Part of it is doing things better so that we can use our existing housing stock better. That is what this housing innovation fund is looking at.

I turn to utilities concessions. We have talked about this before, and we welcome the government’s changes. There are two improvements in the utilities concession offered in this budget review, although only one is in the bill. I will talk about them both, because they are both important.

The utilities concession is an important way that the ACT government supports low income people. It is delivered through a reduction in electricity bills and can be received by both age pensioners and Centrelink low income healthcare cardholders. These are people who do not have a lot of money, by definition. If they have to skimp on staying warm and showering to save on power bills, it can become a real health risk for them. It is also a social inclusion problem; they may well feel that they cannot have visitors in the winter because their house is simply not warm enough to entertain anybody. The utilities concession helps to address that. It is very good news that the utilities concession will be increased by $50 in 2018-19. That is an eight per cent increase. It will help low income people to keep up with rising energy costs. I am pleased the government has included this in the budget review.

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