Targeted cost-of-living support programs are under review in the ACT as the government prepares to expand some concessions to ease spiralling household expenses.
But the total value of government concessions is expected to fall from $150.6 million this financial year to $145.2 million in 2023-24, as a result of fewer households accessing a stamp duty waiver.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr will deliver his 13th budget on Tuesday afternoon, which he has said would focus on health, housing and cost-of-living pressures.
The budget includes an expansion of the ACT's utilities concession scheme to cover 43,800 households.
Anyone with a Commonwealth Health Care Card will be able to access the scheme, adding 12,000 households to the program.
The value of the annual utility bill concession will rise by $50 to $800.
It will be the second year in a row a one-off $50 increase has been applied.
About 160 households on the priority public housing waiting list will receive an extra $250 and the taxi subsidy scheme's cap will grow by 15 per cent.
The scheme will provide expanded access to residents with a disability or significant mobility restriction.
The government will also raise the Legal Aid means test "to better align with cost of living", the government said, meaning more Canberrans will be able to access free legal representation.
An increase to the means test was a recommendation of a Legislative Assembly inquiry into cost-of-living pressures in the ACT, which was tabled in May.
Residential general rates, driver licence fees, registration fees and the road rescue fee will also rise by 3.75 per cent in the ACT in 2023-24.
Public transport fares will not rise in 2023-24.
A cost-of-living budget statement, due to be tabled with budget papers in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, will say the outlook for the ACT's economy was positive but Canberra households lower household spending would contribute to a slower rate of economic growth.
"Increases to the cost of living, in particular rent, disproportionately affect vulnerable households as a greater proportion of their income is required to meet these costs," the statement will say.
"The government supports vulnerable households by providing a wide range of targeted concessions to assist with living expenses including general rates, utility bills, driver licence fees, motor vehicle registration fees, and public transport fares."
Mr Barr said the government preferred to use existing channels to provide assistance to people whose details were already known rather than having a small program for every possible area of expenditure.
That could mean, for example, providing assistance for utilities, then in partnership with the community sector helping with food and clothing.
The budget will note the ACT's inflation rate was 6.2 per cent over the year to March 2023, lower than the 7 per cent national rate, and the ACT has the highest average weekly income levels.
"ACT households spend more compared with the national average in all categories except for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. This higher level of spending is consistent with a higher standard of living and reflects our above-average wage levels," the budget will say.
The budget forecasts concessions will cost the government $145.2 million in 2023-24, a drop of about $5 million on the previous fiscal year.
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The value of a stamp duty waiver scheme is forecast to fall from $85 million in 2022-23 to $65 million in 2023-24.
The government forecasts the cost of public transport concessions, motor vehicle registration concessions and the utilities concession to rise. The cost of the utilities concession will rise from $31.3 million in 2022-23 to $41.8 million in 2023-24.
The Chief Minister last week said rises to interest rates, which have seen dramatic increases in household borrowing costs, have already curbed demand for housing in the ACT.
"We've found that even people who have registered for land ballots who won the ballot are not turning up to purchase their block," Mr Barr said in a pre-budget interview with The Canberra Times.
"There are now blocks for sale over the counter. So I think that indicates a moderating of demand for new housing. There's still obviously population growth that is keeping demand up but it's certainly not at the levels we were experiencing when interest rates were at all time lows."
Mr Barr said the government still expected the land - a significant source of the territory's revenue - would sell in time, but the sales would take longer.
Mr Barr said he expected to report a balanced budget over the four years and the ACT would avoid a recession despite "short-term headwinds".
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