Time to lay cards on the table on affordable housing

Time to lay cards on the table on affordable housing


It is one of the essentials of life, alongside the other perennials, from the right to seek refuge to the right to be treated equally, irrespective of colour, gender or sexuality.


Credit:The Canberra Times

How governments provide safe adequate housing, or fail to, is a perennial issue of public interest, and one which has only become more pressing in recent decades in Canberra, as it has across the country.

So it is that the ACT Greens have put forward an ideas to help provide more affordable housing in the territory - a land tax break to those landlords who choose to cut their rent to 25 per cent of market rates, for those in need.


The detail is yet to be debated, ranging from how much it would cost to exactly how it would operate and whether it would get enough support to become a reality in any form, ahead of a motion from the minor party to be put to the Legislative Assembly this Wednesday.

Two further difficulties arise in trying to convince a property investor, to take a cut on their investment revenue, however civicly-minded they may be; as well as convincing a government with already stretched coffers to take its own revenue cut.

It seems similar ideas are helping, if at a small scale, in both Sydney and Melbourne, and are worth debating.

While the government made some proposals, which could align with the Greens', after its much-vaunted housing summit nearly 18 months ago, significant new ideas from Labor have been seemingly absent from public debate.

For its part, the Opposition it would increase residential land supply at cheaper rates than the current government if elected - though such proposals would seem a blunt instrument in the face of what some call a wicked problem.

Both the Greens and Opposition's proposals have their weaknesses and neither could be taken to be a complete solution to the problem, in the absence of wider changes at both territory and federal levels and a serious increase in funding for actual affordable housing nationally.

Nonetheless, they ae contributions to the debate at a time when ACT Labor would seem more intent on pointing to the Commonwealth's failures - of both political stripes - on housing affordability, rather than its own.

In recent weeks, we have heard increasingly exasperated calls from the community sector and affordable housing advocates for the territory government to elucidate the details of how it proposes to address the problem.

With [probably low] estimates of as few as 50 or 60 people actually sleeping rough in Canberra each night, this small jurisdiction - one in which the land supply lever is firmly in government's hand - surely has the greatest potential to achieve positive things.

But, at present, potential is all it is.

The community has been waiting, and waiting, for the government to explain how it plans to reach that potential, and by which levers, and one hopes it is not kept waiting much longer.

It's time.