How do we find a place to call home for everyone?

Rebecca Vassarotti MLA 12 August 2021 52
Rebecca Vassarotti

Rebecca Vassarotti: “The ACT Government is exploring ways that we can provide more affordable rental in the city.” Photo: Dominic Giannini.

A place to call home is a necessity and basic right for all Canberrans. It is deeply distressing knowing that there are some people in our city who do not have somewhere warm and dry to go at the end of the day.

Many people facing homelessness experience a number of issues usually stemming from systemic challenges in our economic, social and cultural systems. It’s what makes homelessness such a complex issue, one which cannot be solved overnight. However, with focus, collaboration and sustained effort, we can provide a decent home for all.

Losing a home is a traumatising experience. It also means losing a sense of security and stability which can impact our decision-making on other aspects of our lives. This means that in addition to providing a physical home, we need to make sure our support systems can respond to other needs that may be part of the reason that led to homelessness in the first place.

That’s why the ACT Government is committed to delivering more housing stock to meet the demand. We are collaborating with the specialist homelessness sector to better understand and respond to the needs of people facing homelessness.

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Canberra’s specialist homelessness sector has deep knowledge, wisdom and experience in identifying and responding to the complex needs of our fellow community members who are sleeping rough.

We do this by co-designing to ensure better support for the sector, the needs of at-risk people, and implement frameworks like the ACT Housing Strategy, which provides a roadmap to how we can respond in an integrated way to providing a decent home for all.

We know there is more work to do.

The ACT Government has committed a further $18 million over the next four years to bolster the homelessness sector and improve outcomes for people at-risk. We understand the urgency of the need. We have already started delivering some of this funding support through Argyle Housing’s Winter Lodge, CatholicCare’s Mackillop House and extending the Early Morning Centre to operate over the weekend.

These organisations and services work hard to ensure that people sleeping on the streets have access to food, accommodation, bathrooms, and community and skill-building services. They respect and understand the individual needs of the person to better support, empower and transition them into long-term housing.

But this alone is not enough. We are planning to do more as a government, but to truly find a home for all, we need a whole-of-community approach. Not just local government, but also our friends up on the Hill and our neighbours in Canberra.

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We must acknowledge that while we work hard to respond to this issue locally, the Australian Government holds a number of policy levers that impact our community and can lock Canberrans in need out of safe and secure homes.

We need their help to revamp social and community housing policy and raise the rate of JobSeeker. This will provide more homes and support people to live with dignity without having to choose between their home, food, education, or medical care.

A home should be treated as a human right, not a wealth-generating asset. However, Commonwealth tax policies such as negative gearing and low capital gains tax encourage overinflation of our housing market and create housing insecurity across Canberra.

We can also do some things on an individual level to help improve outcomes for people facing homelessness. If Canberrans are able to, they can donate to or volunteer for the many amazing organisations supporting people in need. It builds awareness about the issues that often lead to homelessness and brings in new voices, perspectives, and insights on improving outcomes for our community.

One systemic issue is an increasingly unaffordable market. As the market gets more expensive, more people are pushed out and at greater risk of homelessness.

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The ACT Government is exploring ways that we can provide more affordable rental in the city. In addition, we are providing incentives to assist people in a position to rent out a property below market value through HomeGround and Rentwell to create more opportunities for affordable housing.

Ending homelessness means treating each other with respect. When we understand the unique issues someone faces, we are in a better position to transition them off the streets. We all have a unique role to play on this journey to create a better normal and must work together until we have a home for all.

If you are homeless or at risk of homelessness, OneLink provides information and connections for support services in the ACT, including services for families and young people. Call 1800 176 468.

Rebecca Vassarotti is the Minister for the Environment; Heritage, Homelessness and Housing Services; and Sustainable Building and Construction.

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52 Responses to How do we find a place to call home for everyone?
assiduous assiduous 11:21 pm 21 Aug 21

Easy Rebecca, reduce the cost of homes, by making more land available at a much lower cost. I note that the government has been quick to reduce land supply in the event it anticipates weak demand, despite not meeting it’s own pitiful land release targets for over a decade as land prices set by the ACT government consistently outpaced inflation. Prioritize the release of land to people who do not own homes – ACT resident first home buyers. Currently the ACT government operates very restrictive land release policies, and does not impose the costs of such policies equitably across the electorate, increasing inequality. The government has acknowledged that many people don’t want to live in apartment complexes yet the majority of development is for apartments. Lobby the federal government and reserve bank to place limits on the size of mortgages, and end the focus on housing as a financial asset. Forgive my cynicism but it does appear like the ACT government has been and remains committed to expensive housing – Mick Gentleman in 2020 described lower prices as bad thing in the run up to the election in response to liberal criticism of ACT land prices of $1000 per sqm.

George Watling George Watling 7:55 pm 21 Aug 21

One thing is for sure increasing urban density will not bring down property prices. New Australian research shows rezoning for higher density in suburbs produces higher house prices.

Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 8:54 am 16 Aug 21

Rebecca Vassarotti MLA - Member for Kurrajong what a load of garbage - just fix the problem - shame

Oiledpengu Oiledpengu 8:17 am 16 Aug 21

Public housing simply creates welfare dependency for multiple generations

Mark Newman Mark Newman 1:55 am 16 Aug 21

Where is all our tax payers money? An extra 18 million over four years compared to 65million per year for the next 20 years for the next stage of light rail. What a joke!

Nicole McGuire Nicole McGuire 9:31 pm 15 Aug 21

Time for little madam to put her words into action. Stop blaming others. You’re a minister now so step up to your responsibilities!

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 9:29 am 16 Aug 21

    Nicole McGuire exactly! I remember reading an article and interview with her when she was first elected about how she became a politician to make a difference, so she needs to do it!

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 3:04 pm 16 Aug 21

    What the hell do you think she is doing? Twiddling her thumbs? I am certain she is fighting tooth and nail to make a difference. You lot are just happy to sit and nag

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 3:22 pm 16 Aug 21

    Russell Nankervis can you please let us how many of the 1000 houses the greens promised last election are actually built?? It’s almost a year now

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 8:59 pm 16 Aug 21

    Jorge Gatica yes, even to see them started would be good.

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 9:00 pm 16 Aug 21

    Russell Nankervis what she been doing? What has she actually achieved seeing as you seem to know?

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 9:23 pm 15 Aug 21

It is good to know what the government is doing. They have outlined all the ways they are working to solve this issue.

the ACT Government is committed to delivering more housing stock to meet the demand. We are collaborating with the specialist homelessness sector to better understand and respond to the needs of people facing homelessness.

    Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 8:49 am 16 Aug 21

    Russell Nankervis rubbish they are ....

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 9:27 am 16 Aug 21

    Russell Nankervis while they sell off and demolish public housing in convenient inner areas like Civic and Woden and send public housing tenants to live in the outer areas where it can be more difficult for them to access services. And don’t even get us started on all the homeless and insecurely housed people in this city.

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 2:55 pm 16 Aug 21

    Russell Nankervis If the government solved this homeless issue & housing stock. The Specialist homeless sector would all be out of a job & the government would not have a point to run at the next election.

Jane Kim Jane Kim 8:50 pm 15 Aug 21

So please do something more about it than you’re doing now, Rebecca Vassarotti MLA - Member for Kurrajong.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 9:20 pm 15 Aug 21

    Jane Kim did you read the article?

    Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 8:49 am 16 Aug 21

    Jane Kim or just do something Rebecca Vassarotti MLA - Member for Kurrajong

Angela Thomas Angela Thomas 7:27 pm 15 Aug 21

Canberra got a hell of a lot of money from Rudd and his homelessness initiative. What has been the benefit of that? Whose palms got greased the most I wonder.

Spiral Spiral 6:17 pm 15 Aug 21

Rebecca, since you opened the can of worms by discussing affordable housing, how about you give an answer to the Deb Foskey controversy.

Will your ethics or your party loyalty win out? Was she right or wrong?

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Deb Foskey was one of the early ACT Greens who after being elected in 2005 as an MLA refused to give up her public housing despite her MLA salary being over $100,000. ($100,000 in 2005 is about $143,000 today)

Apparently the Greens believed it was Ok for someone on that salary to still occupy government housing while some real needy people were on the waiting list.

So Rebecca. Were the Greens wrong? Should she have given up her public housing?

What would you write today if she hadn’t done that, but instead a Liberal MLA was doing it now?

Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic 5:17 pm 15 Aug 21

We don't. You - the Government - do!!! The community pays levies and taxes, you use the money to build affordable housing.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 9:20 pm 15 Aug 21

    Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic did you read the article?

Michael Strand Michael Strand 4:58 pm 15 Aug 21

Homelessness is a political choice. Public housing is the answer. Changing government isn't the answer, conservatives have never done anything to help anyone other than their donors and themselves. Pressure the current government to act.

Robyn Pom Robyn Pom 4:51 pm 15 Aug 21

Utilise all empty housing ASAP.

Robyn Pom Robyn Pom 4:50 pm 15 Aug 21

Offer incentives to landlords who provide accommodation to those in need.

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 6:18 pm 15 Aug 21

    Robyn Pom How about the local government stop charging investors $4,000 land tax. That around $77 bucks an investor can drop rents by. Why do you think that they want so many apartments built, more tax for the government coffers.

Simon Mitchell Simon Mitchell 4:34 pm 15 Aug 21

Ban foreign ownership of housing and negative gearing.

    Mark Oz Mark Oz 4:49 pm 15 Aug 21

    I think you are partially right. I'd grandfather negative gearing for one house only for those currently doing it - that would take the wind out of the hard right shock jock sails, who like to pretend they champion the cause of 'mum and dad investors' - of course, all future property investors would not be able to negative gear. Time those of us, who can't afford an investment property, stopped paying the mortgage/s of those that can, via tax breaks that have well and truly passed their use by date. Funny thing, is that only allowing one house, would heavily hit politicians (of both flavour), so not going to happen.

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 6:03 pm 15 Aug 21

    Happy for NG to go, investor will just increase rents to off set the cost that has to be covered by an investor. NZ Labor NG experiment will be interesting to watch.

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 6:07 pm 15 Aug 21

    Mark Oz So, who is going to supply all the rentals for people to live in. The current 20 year Labor government track record isn't looking to good for renters. Can't blame investors, they are just using the current laws and will adjust when they are change. Wait until this (No grounds eviction) that the Greens want to bring in. You think that the current rental market stock is tight.

    Simon Mitchell Simon Mitchell 6:10 pm 15 Aug 21

    Geoffrey Bell home ownership has gone from 85% in the 1980’s to 67% now. There were fewer ‘renters’ due to housing being more affordable. And yes, I don’t blame the investors, the blame and shame lies firmly at the feet of the politicians who have created this lack of affordability.

    Mark Oz Mark Oz 6:51 pm 15 Aug 21

    Yes Geoffrey Bell, it will be interesting to watch the NZ change. I certainly take your point about potential rent increases. I doubt that any govt. would take on landlords and limit the %ge by which rents can rise, but that certainly needs to be part of the discussion. Hopefully grandfathering the first property would lessen the outcry if there were to be regulation of rent increases.

    Mark Oz Mark Oz 7:15 pm 15 Aug 21

    Geoffrey Bell As you know, NG is a Feds responsibility, so our local mob can’t stuff that bit up. I personally don’t see an issue with removing ‘no grounds eviction’ - it seems unfair for a landlord to just up and evict a tenant whose done everything in accordance with the lease (maybe because they’ve come across some cashed up Johnny come lately prepared to go higher on rent)? I’m being a little bolshy (and easy for me to moralise as I don’t have any skin in the investment game) but I have this naive belief that landlords should exhibit some social conscience. Besides, I would have thought that a landlord would prefer a proven reliable tenant than a new unknown, just for the sake of some extra dollars

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 7:44 pm 15 Aug 21

    Mark Oz So a landlord gets into debt with a bank for over 1/2 million and has no control over his asset. The local government needs to be careful - super and shares are other assets that investors can pile into besides property. BTW 99% of landlord have no interest in moving on renters for a couple of bucks. Most investors will keep the rent lower to keep good tenants. It is the future landlord that this (No Ground Eviction) will scare off.

    Mark Oz Mark Oz 1:53 pm 16 Aug 21

    Geoffrey Bell I would have though removing NG would scare off more 'future landlords' than 'No Ground Eviction'. Nevertheless, from a housing affordability perspective, the less investors in the market, (arguably) the lower the average house prices will be - especially if Simon's other suggestion is followed.

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 2:37 pm 16 Aug 21

    Mark Oz Investor generally don't drive the cost of housing as they DON'T work off emotions when buying a place. The general public buying are the emotional type to go higher and higher when after a home. It would be an interesting experiment to remove NG and see what happened. Higher rents i would expect as a lack of rental stock. Canberra - QLD & VIC are making big changes in rental laws. Lets see in two years if that little experiment works out for the rental market.

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 2:39 pm 16 Aug 21

    To keep housing cheaper - build more & bump rates up 1% percent. That should have a big impact on slowing prices?

    Mark Oz Mark Oz 2:57 pm 16 Aug 21

    Geoffrey Bell Indeed - there are a few experiments, including the aforementioned NZ NG one you raised, which are currently happening and as you say, the outcome on the rental market will be interesting. While I agree with your comment re emotional home buyers, their emotion is ultimately limited to what they can borrow (arguably this is beyond their means, but that's another discussion). Whereas investors, will typically have higher margins on loans (either purchasing through their SMSF or having equity in their existing home or cashed up foreigners), so at an auction they have the capacity to go higher - especially if they know that, for Aussie investors, every dollar of loan interest is tax deductible. Perhaps as Simon suggested, we start with the overseas investors, to see what the impact is on housing prices.

    Geoffrey Bell Geoffrey Bell 3:00 pm 16 Aug 21

    Mark Oz All good points raised and i agree.

    Mark Oz Mark Oz 3:14 pm 16 Aug 21

    Geoffrey Bell Unfortunately, Geoffrey, the good points we have all raised count for nought - we are able to present a (to us) logical set of solutions and outcomes, without the straight-jacket of political ideology (and the pressure from lobbyists). The sad truth is that increasingly over time, our politicians have lost this 'luxury' to the "needs must" mentality to grasp or stay in power. Still it's good to be able to engage in a stimulating conversation to pass the lockdown time :)

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 4:09 pm 15 Aug 21

More public housing, ongoing, never stop.

    Noel Benjamin Noel Benjamin 4:27 pm 15 Aug 21

    Robyn Holder Yes, the only viable solution, but properly managed and not neglected, otherwise it becomes a burden on the community.

David Malcolm David Malcolm 3:53 pm 15 Aug 21

Maybe ask the party that’s been in power for the last 20 years and has done very little to resolve the issue?

Ricardo Stantini Ricardo Stantini 3:50 pm 15 Aug 21

Build more houses and units. It’s not that hard.

William Coats William Coats 3:02 pm 15 Aug 21

The biggest impact on house prices in Canberra has been the slow release of land under the last 20 years of labor greens government. The current labor greens governments plan of urban infill has made the prices of houses with back yards rise very quickly. Although in fairness some of Canberrans homeless have found shelter under the greens offices in the assembly.

Acton Acton 2:42 pm 15 Aug 21

The same words could have been said by the same person ten years ago. The problem is that Greens/Labor housing policies are contributing to housing unaffordability and the more unaffordable housing becomes the more homelessness there will be.

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