Jon Stanhope says the ACT government 'abandoned' affordable housing

Jon Stanhope says the ACT government 'abandoned' affordable housing

Former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope has slammed the Labor-Greens government for "abandoning" his government's affordable housing initiatives, and said if it continues, he may consider standing for office again.

Mr Stanhope's criticisms come as the government is preparing a new affordable housing strategy, the development of which has dragged on for more than 18 months since the election and six months since last year's housing summit.

Jon Stanhope at a sod turning ceremony in Forde for a CHC project in 2009.

Jon Stanhope at a sod turning ceremony in Forde for a CHC project in 2009.Credit:Graham Tidy

Housing Minister Yvette Berry has previously said she is dedicated to increasing affordable housing, but the government has been criticised for what have been labelled "almost insignificant" affordable housing targets for this year.

The Canberra Times also understands the government last year decided against extending the 10-year interest-only period on a $50 million loan to CHC, the ACT's main community housing provider.


While CHC had been paying interest on the loan, provided under Mr Stanhope's government to set up CHC a decade ago, the government began forcing it to start paying the loan back at a rate of $2.5 million a year last year.

Mr Stanhope said that went against his original intentions for the loan, which he said would have been "rolled over" if CHC was achieving its outcomes of delivering 1000 blocks for affordable housing over 10 years - half for sale and half to rent.

"Despite the crisis in housing affordability we now have, the government has effectively declined to give CHC any guarantee of land supply, and it's effectively converted what was a revolving finance facility into a straight loan," he said.

"So now CHC's first financial obligation every year is to pay the government $2.5 million, which it has to do before developing any new affordable housing and I understand that means it needs to sell 15 or 16 houses at market rate before it can provide just one affordable dwelling."

Mr Stanhope cited recent research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute he said showed his government's affordable housing action plan had been "one of the best", specifically endorsing CHC's work and the land rent scheme.

"But what the government has done to the jewel in the crown of affordable housing policy in the ACT — it was a tier one community housing provider — but it's now essentially been gutted and emasculated," he said.

While Housing Minister Yvette Berry said in a statement that the 10-year memorandum of understanding with CHC remained and she was "proud" of the governemnt's work on the 2007 action plan, she would not explain why the government had decided to call in the loan repayments.

Jon Stanhope

Jon StanhopeCredit:Rohan Thomson

Mr Stanhope said he had thought "long and hard" about his decision to retire from politics in 2011, a decision he had made "on the basis that the things I worked hard to implement", including affordable housing, "would be pursued by my colleagues with the same vigour".

"I thought that CHC was safe, that the land rent scheme was safe, that there would be at all times a deal for 1000 blocks of land for affordable housing," he said.

"The government put in place an affordable housing strategy that was seen by AHURI as one of the most successful in the country, and my former colleagues are abandoning it and I’d just like somebody to explain why."

Mr Stanhope said the current government seemed to have "no interest in affordable housing" and that should that situation continue, he may consider running again, "if I get angry enough".

While the government has set up an affordable housing advisory group, and is currently looking for "innovative" proposals from the community, it is unclear what specific issues the government will take up from last year's summit.

Ms Berry said the government was now developing a new housing strategy for the ACT, which would consider the recent talks and a 2012 review of the Stanhope-era reforms, to be released "in the second half of 2018".

Questions about the CHC loan repayment have been put to Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Clarification: This article previously incorrectly stated the government had not extended the 10-year loan. It should have said the government did not extend the 10-year interest-only period.

Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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