ACT housing minister pressured to explain why housing units were kept vacant

As the Australia Capital Territory struggles with a chronic housing shortage, a non-profit has called on the territory’s housing minister to explain a report that affordable housing units in a Canberra suburb were kept vacant for over a year.

According to a report by the Canberra Times, the territory kept more than 30 government-owned housing units in the Canberra suburb of Kaleen vacant for over 15 months “despite worsening housing affordability in Canberra, because officials sought a better rental revenue deal.”

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Expressing “deep concern” over the report, Emma Campbell, chief executive officer of ACT Council of Social Service ACTOSS, has called on housing minister Yvette Berry to explain why “a large number of newly built ACT Housing properties were left sitting empty for well over a year as bureaucrats wrangled over revenue models.”

“Following the alarming revelations in today’s newspaper report, ACTCOSS has written to the ACT minister for housing asking for a full and urgent explanation of this situation,” said Campbell. “If the Canberra Times report is accurate, the community deserves a full explanation from the minister responsible. We need to urgently understand why there was such a long delay in making these properties available to vulnerable Canberrans and their families.”

According to the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), Canberra posted the largest home price increase over the past year at 10.6% -- driven in part by a lack of housing stock in the territory.

 “The ACT has a housing crisis,” said Campbell. “Research shows that the ACT has a shortfall of around 3,000 social houses, while almost 1,600 people in the ACT are homeless. On average, applicants for standard public housing wait 3.5 years for a home.”