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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5868

Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice, on 4 September 2008:

(1)   As recommended in the report by the Select Committee on Housing Affordability in Australia, A good house is hard to find: Housing affordability in Australia, dated June 2008, has an emergency taskforce been established to consult with Pilbara communities and industry to develop a coordinated response to the housing affordability crisis: (a) if so: (i) what are the terms of reference and membership of the taskforce, and (ii) when and with whom will it meet; and (b) if not: (i) does the Minister intend to establish such a taskforce, and (ii) given the conditions that people in the region are experiencing and its impact on the sustainability of the regional economy, can the Minister inform the Senate of when this emergency will be recognised and addressed by the Government.

(2)   What funds does the Government intend to invest to address the crisis in public and community housing in the Pilbara.

(3)   Will the provision of units of affordable housing in the Pilbara be prioritised in the assessment of projects under the National Rental Affordability Scheme.

(4)   Has the issue of land-banking (the speculative withholding of land release) and reform of LandCorp been discussed with the State Government of Western Australia as part of the discussions about ongoing Commonwealth housing funding.

Senator Chris Evans (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   The answer is NO. The Government is implementing an Australian wide response to housing affordability that includes measures likely to benefit mining communities including but not limited to the Pilbara. The Government’s response to the Senate Inquiry report has not yet been finalised. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is consulting with other agencies to prepare a whole of government response.

(2)   The Commonwealth Government provides funding to the States and Territories to deliver public and community housing to people in need under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. The day to day management of this housing is the responsibility of individual State and Territory Governments. This includes the identification of priority locations, tenancy matters, management of waiting lists and housing maintenance. In 2007-08, the Commonwealth provided $102,497,000 to Western Australia under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. A further $53,586,000 was provided by the Commonwealth to Western Australia in 2007-08 for indigenous community housing under a pooled funding arrangement through the Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Agreement (total funding $87,057,000). It is estimated that in 2007-08 around $5.2million of the pooled funds was invested in indigenous community housing in the Pilbara. Further discussions will occur between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories in the context of implementing the new Commonwealth-State financial arrangements which are expected to be in place from 1 January 2009. States and Territories will identify priority areas and will determine the best way to achieve improved and jointly agreed public and community housing outcomes.

(3)   The priorities identified by the Western Australian government for the first round of the National Rental Affordability Scheme are for proposals that target areas of high projected population growth, or that have experienced rapidly increasing property prices in the past five years, or with limited provision of existing affordable housing; or in the Perth metropolitan area within close proximity of an activity centre or transport node, or undergoing significant urban renewal or redevelopment. The Pilbara area would meet some of these priorities. Round one applications for incentives under the National Rental Affordability Scheme are currently being assessed and considered through a competitive selection processes. Stage 6 of the assessment process will involve national prioritisation which will address the balance of allocations across Australia and within specific locations. The selection process will be finalised by 27 October 2008.

(4)   Through the COAG Housing Working Group, all States and Territories have been working with the Commonwealth to identify potential reforms to social housing which are aimed at improving agreed housing outcomes. Discussions about future Commonwealth funding for housing will be undertaken by Treasurers in coming weeks. The recent election and change of government in Western Australia has caused some delay in this process.