YWCA calls for landlords to get tax cuts if they give rent discount
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YWCA calls for landlords to get tax cuts if they give rent discount

Landlords should receive tax cuts if they give rent discounts to Canberrans through community housing providers, a not-for-profit has told the Barr government.

YWCA Canberra has also called on the ACT to introduce a Gender Equality Act and stop giving serial sexual harrassers government contract work, in its latest report card on gender equality in Canberra.

A homeless person sleeps rough outside the ACT Legislative Assembly on Monday.

A homeless person sleeps rough outside the ACT Legislative Assembly on Monday.

Photo: Karleen Minney

The report card builds on an earlier review which found the ACT government was yet to deliver real outcomes for women since its election in 2016.

YWCA Canberra's executive director Frances Crimmins said a pre-budget commitment of an extra $690,000 for the Office of Women over the next four years was welcome, but the ACT could do more to lead the way on achieving gender parity, particularly on housing.

YWCA Canberra says the government can do more to improve housing security for women.

YWCA Canberra says the government can do more to improve housing security for women.

Photo: Melissa Adams
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"We know from the latest census women are disproportionately affected by or more at risk of homelessness, or experiencing housing stress," she said.

"There's a number of drivers around that and a lot of structural issues. Obviously you've got women escaping domestic and family violence with their children but we know again through the census single-headed households are most likely to be women with children,  which puts them at considerable risk of poverty."

Ms Crimmins said older women who'd been primary carers throughout their lives, had little superannuation or were recently divorced were also at a high risk of homelessness.

"Sadly we get women coming into our office saying they're sleeping in their car because they can't afford the private rental market in Canberra. The pension for a single person is not enough to pay single rent," she said.

The capital gains tax was increased in last year's federal budget for investors who provided affordable housing to low-income tenants.

On top of this, Ms Crimmins said the ACT could give land tax reductions to private landlords who leased their properties at less than 75 per cent of the market rate through ACT registered community housing providers.

This measure would help everyone, not just women, she added.

"There are tax levers they can look at," Ms Crimmins said.

The report also highlighted the need to fund specialist, culturally appropriate housing providers.

Not-for-profit Inanna closed in 2016 after its board and chief executive abruptly resigned and women's refuge Beryl is also at risk of closure.

"It's about more than just providing them with a house, those specialist services help them reconnect with the community," Ms Crimmins said.

YWCA also called on the government to become more gender responsive, and streamline the oversight of equality in the ACT by moving the Office for Women from the Community Services Directorate to the Chief Minister, Treasury, and Economic Development directorate.

That's where the Office of LGBTIQ Affairs sits, and Ms Crimmins said it would mean a more coordinated approach to equality.

The government could also do more to promote gender equality in the workplace, Ms Crimmins said.

YWCA recommended government overhaul its procurement processes, and stop employers with a history of sexual harassment claims tendering for ACT government contracts.

It said the territory should enact gender equality laws that would set out defined quotas and targets for organisations to meet.

The group also called on the territory to install a positive definition of consent and have mandatory respectful relationship training in schools and universities.

That should include training applicable to international students studying at Canberra institutions.

"We're great at marketing to international students but we need to ensure the support when they get here meets their diverse needs," Ms Crimmins said.

"We need a whole of community conversation about consent."

Katie Burgess

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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