9 July 2020

A home for all - it's achievable if we prioritise it

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ACT properties

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated how dependent we all are in ensuring everyone has a safe home. Photo: File.

A home for all. While a simple call, it’s something that we have struggled to deliver to all Canberrans.

Despite our relative wealth and prosperity, more people in Canberra are finding it harder to find a safe and affordable place to live. With some of the highest rents and house prices in Australia, it’s always been tough, but the economic disaster triggered by COVID-19 means even more people are facing housing stress.

More investment in social and affordable housing is something many in the community have been calling for over many years. We know that with small numbers of people sleeping rough this is an issue we can solve. Housing was a central theme of the community sector’s 2016 election campaign. While the last few years have seen some good housing programs established, we have continued to see housing affordability worsen rather than get better.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the broader impacts of homelessness on public health. This crisis has demonstrated how dependent we all are in ensuring everyone has a safe home.

Right now, we are witnessing the terrible consequences of inadequate investment in social housing infrastructure. I know that I am not alone at being deeply distressed watching the evolving crisis in Melbourne as COVID-19 takes hold in old, over-crowded and poorly designed public housing complexes.

In some cases, this has triggered a more concentrated effort on this issue. We have watched other Australian jurisdictions commit to immediately increasing social and community housing stock. It is pleasing to see that here in the ACT we have seen new homelessness services open recently. These filled quickly and we can see that there is a need for more investment in this area.

This is exactly the time that we need to get serious about ending homelessness and providing a safe home for everyone who wants one. This is the time to make a proper investment to get Canberra back to where it should be in relation to social and community housing stock – building stock at a rate that keeps pace with our growing population.

In addition to providing more social housing stock, we also need to invest in our community housing providers who are able to deliver community and affordable housing, and provide more resources and support our specialist homelessness services.

There will be those who say that we can’t afford this. They will say it is too expensive to build more housing – particularly given we are at the beginning of a recession. While there is no doubt that we need to make a serious financial investment, it will cost us even more if we don’t do this. There is clear evidence that homelessness is even more expensive. We know that people who are homeless have greater health issues, mental issues and are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, including as victims of violence.

I think it’s time to make a serious investment in social and community housing and make sure there is a home for all. What do you think?

Rebecca Vassarotti is an ACT Greens Candidate for Kurrajong in the upcoming Territory election and the candidate spokesperson on housing and homelessness.

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This is what happens when you treat housing as a commodity rather than a basic human right.

George Watling10:21 pm 09 Jul 20

I ‘d be very happy to see more public housing stock being provided as long as the building of new stock is not used as a trojan horse to build over our greens spaces, parks and ovals (as has happened in Weston Creek, the Inner North, Belconnen, and Tuggeranong). We all know a) there are plenty of former public housing and ACT Government building sites in good locations all round Canberra where new public housing stock could be built but that land is being sold off to the highest bidder b) there are plenty of unsold privately built apartments and town houses in Canberra that could be purchased by the government and added to the public housing stock right now.

A direct consequence of years of ACT Labor & Greens government deliberately choking off the supply of new land and driving up the cost of ACT housing stock. The government needs to get out of the way and be part of the solution not the problem – that is let people get on and build housing by releasing affordable land and lots of it. This will relieve pressure on social housing and allow more people to afford to rent in the private market. The only party i see talking about taking real action on this front is the ACT Liberals.

ACT Labor has been in power so long that problems like this are their fault, aided by the Greens who have helped them keep power.

The problem with Greens politicians complaining about things in the ACT is that in effect you are complaining about the failings of your own party and those of your Labor partners.

Instead of whining about lack of investment by your pals in government, pals your party willingly supports, vote with your feet. Cut a deal with the Liberals and support them at the next election.

If the Greens were serious about house affordability in the ACT they should demand an investigation into land pricing. The government benefits from high land “values” The more expensive the land, the greater the rates and thus the more money flowing into the government’s coffers. Why would anyone be surprised that the government does everything it can to keep prices high!

And it should be blindingly obvious that the move away from stamp duty towards increased rates will be a disaster for vulnerable older Australians, but that is a demographic that Labor and the Greens do not care about.

This is a problem of your own making. The Labor/Greens ACT government have intentionally restricted land supply. Result: higher land and house prices and less affordable housing. Next, the Labor/Greens coalition raises, and raises, and raises rates by well over the rate of wage increases. Result: household budget stress for home owners and higher rents for home renters. The hypocrisy is unbelievable. The Greens as part of The ACT government are responsible for this mess and have no credible solution.

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