27 January 2023

ACT Government policies a perfect storm for housing, says Parton

| Ian Bushnell
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Opposition housing spokesperson Mark Parton says the government must support rental market and community housing providers. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

ACT Government policies had created a perfect storm for the housing market that was pushing more people out of private rental accommodation into an already overwhelmed public housing sector, Opposition housing spokesperson Mark Parton said.

He was commenting on the latest figures from the Productivity Commission that show little headway in the ACT’s public housing problems despite the government’s renewal program.

The Report on Government Services says the number of ACT public housing dwellings, 10,744 at 30 June 2022, is the lowest since 2013.

There were 3059 on the waiting list, with people facing anywhere between nine to 18 months before being able to get into a property.

There was also an 89-day average turnaround for vacant stock, the second highest in the nation after the Northern Territory.

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Canberra has been in the throes of a rental crisis for years, with tenants paying the highest rents in the country in a brutal market in which competition can be white hot for reasonable accommodation.

Many low to medium income people are barely hanging on in the private market and others are knocking on the door of public housing but facing long waiting times.

Mr Parton said the turnaround and vacancy rates were concerning but the number of public housing dwellings also continued to fall despite government rhetoric about its renewal program.

“When I talked to the Minister about this, she says this is just point in time data. Well, that point in time seems to have lasted for about seven years now and it just goes on and they continually say that the numbers will increase soon and they’re not,” he said.

“We also saw some figures that indicate that families are really struggling to get into public housing, that’s no great surprise when you consider the number of three and four bedroom houses that the government has either sold off or bulldozed and replaced with apartments and townhouses.”

Mr Parton said the situation was all of the government’s making.

“Everything that the Liberals said would happen in this space is happening and the ROGs data for here in the ACT is genuinely reflective of what’s going on on the ground,” he said.

“And it is reflective of a government failure in this space, that what we’re seeing here is a combination of Labor Green policies that have combined to create a perfect storm in housing unaffordability and a rental crisis.”

Mr Parton pointed to the government’s land supply approach, its rates and charges, changes to the residential tenancies legislation and the absence of community housing providers in the mix.

“They’re not releasing enough land for detached dwellings which drives the price up of every form of dwelling,” he said.

“We’re talking about the spiraling rates and land tax regime. We’re talking about the continual changes to Residential Tenancies legislation, which is forcing investors out of the market narrowing that rental market, and we’re also talking about this government’s inability or its lack of will to genuinely have community housing providers as a bigger solution to the problem.”

Mr Parton said the latest proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, designed to improve energy efficiency in rental properties and reduce bills, which the government said was looking after renters, would do the opposite.

“It will drive more investors out of that market,” he said. “It will further narrow that private rental market, and it will create more homelessness.”

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Mr Parton was not yet ready to reveal how the Canberra Liberals would fix the problem but indicated that community housing providers would be part of the solution, as well as policies to expand the private market.

“I’m not going to announce a comprehensive housing policy today, but I can guarantee you that under a Canberra Liberals government rents will go down and we will provide hundreds more small social and affordable dwellings than the current government,” he said.

He said the government must do what it could to make the private rental market function effectively.

“But there also has to be a heavier reliance on community housing providers because the assistance that we need in this space is immediate,” he said.

The community sector said the ACT Government’s approach was failing and called on it and and the Commonwealth to take urgent action.

In a joint statement, ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter urged both governments to do more to boost the supply of social housing and for the Commonwealth to increase income supports, including a doubling of Commonwealth Rent Assistance.

“The ACT Government must take immediate action to empower our community housing providers to build more homes through access to financial support and affordable land, so that all Canberrans have a safe and secure home, no matter their income,” ACTCOSS Interim CEO Dr Gemma Killen said.

An ACT Government spokesperson said the government was acting to meet the demand for public housing across the Territory by renewing 1000 properties and growing the portfolio by at least 400 homes by 2024-25.

The spokesperson said the number of people on the waiting list for public housing had continued to grow over the past year as in most due to the impact of COVID-19 and ongoing cost of living pressures.

The government is planning for an increase of around 30,000 dwellings in the Territory with more public housing, more social housing, more affordable rental properties, more urban infill developments and more greenfield developments.

It was also encouraging investors to build more rental properties to increase the supply in the years to come.

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Adults are back in charge on Capital Hill9:32 pm 29 Jan 23

Mr Parton was not yet ready to reveal how the Canberra Liberals would fix the problem but indicated that community housing providers would be part of the solution, as well as policies to expand the private market

This is why this bloke is a lightweight, and LP grifter.

He has no alternatives or solutions, just complains.

Getting rid of all the little public housing apartments along Northbourne Avenue contributed to the housing problem. Moving them out to the suburbs was not a good idea – low income people need to be close to the city and services. The ACT lab/greens government (which has been in power for decades) continually refuses to accept responsibility for it’s terrible housing policies that are causing so many people to be homeless (and the number of homeless people is increasing every year so the problem is growing, not decreasing).

The ACT government has also moved many services for low income people out to the far flung suburbs of Gungahlin & Tuggeranong, so people living near the city have less access to them.

Are you sure the ACT government has moved many services out to Tuggeranong? Where do you get this claim from.

Stephen Saunders6:35 am 29 Jan 23

The ACT “LIbLabGreen” party enthusiastically supports national policy for 100,000 extra population in Canberra by 2033, without a care for the infrastructure and services implications.

It follows logically, anything Parton says about social housing should be regarded as crocodile tears and sheer humbug.

Yes, forget dams, roads, schools, shopping centres – they don’t fit the “we must return to caves” narrative of the Greens

devils_advocate9:46 pm 28 Jan 23

Housing crisis? Have they tried increasing the stamp duty, rates and land taxes for private landlords, creating more requirements for energy efficiency and stripping away all the rights of ownership? Surely that will solve the problem?

Mike of Canberra8:20 pm 28 Jan 23

There can be little doubt that Canberra faces a housing rental crisis. Parton’s made the reasons perfectly clear. Pretty obviously, this ACT Government doesn’t like private landlords and is doing all it can to drive them out of Canberra. And then, there’s the performance of Housing ACT. Not only does it lack the funding to create a genuine, vibrant public housing estate, it can’t even achieve an intelligent dispersal of what it has. No wonder public housing is going to the dogs.

Agree with you, Mike. Housing ACT needs to re-examine most of its policies. One of the main problems is the idea that public housing is given to people forever – which is should NOT be. It is not possible for the taxpayer to house people forever, and by some people receiving life-long public housing, many are sadly missing out. Taxpayer funded opportunities should only be given for a short time, so that everyone gets a turn; which makes it fairer. It is wrong that some low-income people get the opportunity for life-long cheap taxpayer funded public housing, but many low-income people do not get the same opportunity. This is why it needs to stop being viewed and given as a life-long benefit.

Public housing should be viewed as a short-term opportunity, provided by the taxpayer for short-term cheap housing (which many in the community do not get). By making it short-term and putting a limit on it, it allows more people to be able to have a turn. Housing ACT could start by introducing a limit for how long you are able to stay in public housing – I suggest a 5 year maximum for people under the age of 60 years (there should be separate public housing for older people). You are given 5 years to live in a taxpayer funded property and hopefully this allows you to have some stability for 5 years, sort out your life, apply for jobs and improve your situation. After the 5 years of taxpayer funded housing is up, you then leave, and this allows others to then be given a cheap housing opportunity. This would be a much fairer system with more people being given an opportunity for public housing. They place a limit on many taxpayer funded things like how many years people can study for (which the taxpayer is funding), health care (e.g. how many taxpayer funded Medicare psychology sessions people can receive), and this same principle should also apply to those in public housing.

Agree, although for single parents and victims of domestic violence, a longer time frame might be necessary as their situation may not improve so quickly.

The other Housing ACT policy that is shocking is that they let people stay in public housing who have full-time jobs, are doing well, and earn a lot of money! Housing ACT seems to have a very naive belief that everyone should have a ‘house for life’ but they don’t seem to realise it is policies like this that are causing harm to others. By only a ‘select few’ being provided with government housing for life (even if they are rich), it means many others miss out on having any housing. It’s beyond a joke.

With public housing so scarce and very hard to come by, Housing ACT needs to ditch stupid policies like this, that are socially regressive, and not economically viable.

HiddenDragon7:18 pm 28 Jan 23

With tri-partisan support (Labor, Greens and Coalition are all in on it) over the last few decades, Australia has become the real estate equivalent of a narco-state – addicted to and dangerously dependent upon ever-growing revenues from the property sector.

To some, it probably seemed to be a good thing back in the days when the then PM (Howard) glibly observed that no one had ever complained to him about the value of their home going up. That was around the time the property sector shills started telling us that prices were only “ticking up” when they were really galloping up, and also started telling us that the property market was simply finding “fair value” and gloatingly told desperate people trying to get a roof over their heads that they would have to “meet the market” regardless of the cost.

Things got seriously bad when we started hearing about the “wealth effect” – i.e. property owners being encouraged to live beyond their means because of rapid rises in property prices – the rot had really set in when idiot econocrats, including central bankers, started using this language.

This was all jolly stuff for the people profiting from it – developers, speculators, flippers, agents on a percentage commission, inheritors of real estate assets and, of course, federal, state/territory and local governments levying taxes, duties, rates and charges on a rapidly inflating asset class.

But this has never been a victimless crime, as we are increasingly seeing here in Canberra, and in many other parts of Australia. Good luck to any politician who thinks they can do much to deal with the symptoms without curing the disease.

As usual Mr Parton is not ready to reveal how the Canberra Liberals would fix the housing problem. Or our transport system for that matter. Mr Parton is big on rhetoric but light on policy. I remember the last time the Liberals were in government under Kate Carnell. Public housing and our public transport system was dismantled, sold or given away for private profit. Over a thousand public housing properties were sold off during this time. Liberal governments believe that charity should be palmed off to aid organisations.

The Canberra Liberals don’t care about public housing. Their reaction to new public housing developments (Holder and Chapman) have been disgraceful. I watched with interest the last debate in the Assembly for tripartisan party agreement to write to the Morrison government to request it waive the public housing debt, as it did for Tasmania and South Australia. In a display of total ignorance, all Mark Parton and Elizabeth Lee did was snicker across the chamber throughout the debate.

How many MLA’s and their highly paid aids have ultiple dwellings?

How many are putting their money where there mouths are about affordable housing and slashing the rent that they are charging?

It would be a tiny start but it would be a start.

Wow 10,000 public housing units. This is a public service town with marginal service industries and the universities. There is no reason there should be THAT many on government welfare in the ACT. If we assume 2 people per dwelling which is well below the Census average that is 20k people in public housing divided by a population size of 500k is 4% of the population. Yet our unemployment rate is under 3%? I’m honestly confused. Least of all we need a San Francisco situation where all the homeless from regional NSW flock to the ACT due to favourable territory laws and a Greens government that love vagrants.

Graham CLEWS2:00 pm 28 Jan 23

When will vested interest groups, frequently given a voice by the Riotact, acknowledge that our housing challenges, just as most others, are a product of unfettered, unsustainable demand!
The source of this demand, of course, is unfettered, unsustainable immigration.

Our perpetual greed-and-growth agenda is slowly killing this city, as it is this country.

We already have an appalling environmental record. When might we permitted to stop adding to it?

Nice to see someone getting close to the root cause of the problem – overpopulation. Be it through immigration, reproduction or longevity, our city, country and planet is exponentially overpopulating.
Yes, our perpetual greed-and-growth agenda and unfettered, unsustainable demand

Agree! Why should someone who has chosen to have 4 children get given a government funded (paid for by the taxpayer) 4 bedroom house for life? People should accept responsibility for their own life choices and life decisions, and not expect the taxpayer to pay for them. People who have more than 2 children should be able to afford them – or please don’t have them. It’s not nice for children to be born into a terrible situation, and not nice for the community who is then forced to support them all. I don’t care what your religious or cultural views are, we need to recognise (in law) that overpopulation is destroying the planet. Make better choices people!

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