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The number of Australians living on the streets will be halved in the next 12 years, Prime Minister has asserted recently.

Launching the Government’s White Paper on Homelessness, “The Road Home”, Mr Rudd outlined the Federal Government’s plans for reducing homelessness in Australia by 2020, with specific goals to cut homelessness by half and provide accommodation to all rough sleepers who require it.

There are currently 105,000 homeless people in Australia, of whom approximately 16,000 are sleeping rough.

The White Paper allows for a significant injection of federal money, providing an additional $1.2 billion over four years, or a 55% increase in investment in homelessness.

It includes a commitment of $800 million over the next four years for new support services for homeless people and $400 million over the next two financial years for social housing, to house the homelessness.

The reforms aim to:

  • Help up to 9,000 more young people to remain connected with their families;
  • Help up to 2,250 more families at risk of homelessness to stay housed;
  • Provide day to day support to an extra 1,000 adults with mental illness;
  • Build up to 2,700 additional public and community houses for low income households who are at risk of homelessness;
  • Build up to 4,200 new houses and upgrade up to 4,800 existing houses in remote Indigenous communities;
  • Allocate aged care places and capital funds for at least 1 new specialist facility for older homeless people every year for the next four years.

Simon Turner

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How’s this for short-sightedness: The New South Wales Government’s infinite wisdom to increase taxes by $3.6 billion AUD to compensate for their years of inept mismanagement of states coffers will have a huge impact on the property sector at a time when it can least afford it.

NSW Labor Premier Nathan Rees and Treasurer Eric Roozendaal plans to raise $680 million by increasing the land tax rate from 1.6% to 2% for properties over $2.25 million in land value, essentially a 25% increase, which will increase holding costs for land owners, discourage developments and lead to an increase in rental charges.

The flow on from this will lead to further job losses in the property industry, which is already shedding staff at more than one hundred per week.

We argue that this is not the time for tax hikes, but for the government to show some innovative thought, boost confidence and stimulate the economy. Or at least start spending NSW tax payers money wisely. But then again, given the churn of Premiers in the state and thus their lack of accountability, what do they care?

Simon Turner

FYI: Read more articles on the Credit Crunch; or the NSW Government; or Interest Rates

It’s difficult to watch the television, read newspapers or generally go outside of your home right now without being bombarded with negative news on the economy. The US economy is all but in recession, New Zealand is already in recession, Japan is in recession and as of today so is the United Kingdom.

The Governor of the Bank of England has predicted no growth in the UK in 2009 and believes that the recession will be as bad as the early 1990’s. The British Pound has hit a six year low against the Euro and inflation in the UK is currently at 5% (the target set by the Bank of England is 2%).

Deflation is now a real threat in the UK which can be just as concerning as inflation. Deflation refers to a general decline in prices, often caused by a reduced supply of money or credit. It can also be caused by a decrease in spending by Governments, consumers or investors. Deflation is simply put as a decrease in price due to decreased demand – therefore the decreased demand results in decreased production and increased levels of unemployment.

With this deflationary threat looming it is likely that we will see interest rates continue to fall with some economists predicting UK interest rates will drop to around 1%. The recent massive 1.5% rate cut in the UK and two consecutive monthly cuts in Australia (1% and 0.75% respectively) are sure signs that central banks have finally seen just how serious the current situation is. I believe it’s a perfect time to purchase property safe in the knowledge that interest rates are going down – this is a wonderful situation.

Michael Marquette

FYI: Read related articles on Recession; the UK; or Buying Real Estate

The economic storm is penetrating every corner. The Bank of England’s Monetary-Policy Committee (MPC) has pulled of shock when most thought there are almost no surprises left: it has cut UK interest rates by 1.5% leaving them now at 3% – the lowest level since 1955.

The boldness should be commended, although it clearly demonstrates that they were shocked themselves by the rapidity of the UK’s contraction, as well as the global downturn. Though consumer-price inflation, at 5.2%, is high, the bank reckons that the collapse in commodity prices and the prospect of weaker growth means there is now a “substantial risk” that inflation will fall below its 2% target.

Furthermore, British GDP fell at an annualised rate of 2% in the third quarter, factory output fell for a seventh successive month in September, new-car registrations fell by 23% in the year to October, and house prices fell by 2.2% in October leaving them 15% lower than a year earlier. Things are indeed looking grim.

Also this last week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised its economic outlook stating that it envisages Britain’s economy shrinking by 1.3% in 2009, and that of the euro area by 0.5% – the European Central Bank has also just cut rates by 0.5% perhaps indicating that the ECB is not recognizing the global tsunami soon enough.  Simon Turner

FYI: Read more articles on the Credit Crunch, Interest Rates, and the Economy

This is a question on many people’s lips and our colleague in San Fransisco, Jim Walberg, has some great points worthy of noting.

THE key to our economic recovery is real estate values and consumer confidence. Real estate is the oil that fuels our economic engine. Generally, real estate is having a similar feel that we are seeing in the stock market today. Volatility!

  • New home building starts are down to a trickle
  • Interest rates are GREAT and will get even better in the coming weeks.
  • Rentals are now commanding premium prices.

At some point, consumers will be the driving force that stabilises the real estate market, which will in turn send the message to the markets that the bottom of the market has been found.

In fact, Warren Buffet made a comment recently that when people bail out of the markets because of FEAR, he gets greedy. There are companies valued at 50% of their true value today. Warren Buffet is buying up these values with BILLIONS of dollars today.

Again, we will know the roller coaster ride of the markets is over when real estate hits the bottom and starts to the bounce back up. Pay attention to that event and you may well have timed the market perfectly to participate in some of the best values we will see for years to come.” Wise words indeed. Simon Turner

FYI: Read more articles on Real Estate, Stock Markets, Warren Buffet, and Luxury Homes

Iceland is in serious financial trouble. In fact the country is close to bankruptcy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that Britain is commencing legal action against Iceland to recover deposit monies for over 300,000 Britons.

As Australians it is hard to understand how bank deposits are not secure. How can you lose your money when depositing into a bank? A bank is not a credit union or building society so surely your money is guaranteed. Well this is not the case in many countries outside of Australia – in fact most countries throughout the world have not guaranteed bank deposits until now.

Iceland is a very small country of just 320,000 people. It’s six major banks have embarked on major expansions into mainland Europe and in doing so have taken deposits from foreigners and these deposits are not secured. Iceland has frozen bank accounts thus blocking people from withdrawing their money and the government has guaranteed deposits in full for citizens of Iceland but not those from abroad.

As a result of the global credit crunch and the implosion of the European financial sector, Great Britain has commenced legal action to recover money on behalf of its citizens and other European nations are set to follow. Iceland is in rapid meltdown – more than global warming experts could ever have predicted.

Michael Marquette

When Marquette Turner Luxury Homes began, we were determined that we would regularly donate and lend a significant amount of our revenue to organizations and individuals worldwide.

As a company with a substantial focus in real estate, we deal with transactions involving people’s homes. In the simplest manner, our philanthropic efforts are subsequently focused in assisting and encouraging people in developing nations to nurture their “home“.

Loans That Change Lives

We whole heartedly endorse the work of the organization Kiva, which allows loans to be made to microfinance institutions who help build sustainable businesses that provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate someone in the developing world who needs a loan for their business – like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks.

Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent – and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is going.

This month we have made loans to the following entrepreneurs: Sok Sareth in Cambodia, Pham Thi Chu in Vietnam, Zulhiya Sadieva in Tajikistan, Sevinj Alekberova in Azerbaijan, Wendy Yamileth Solis Lopez in Nicaragua, and Attiogbe Dokou in Togo, all of whose businesses can be read about on the Kiva website, along with many, many other worthwhile beneficiaries.

It’s finally easy to actually do something about poverty – using Kiva we have every confidence that we’re helping people build sustainable businesses long after our loans are paid back.

Our philanthropy is by no means a cynical strategy to try and earn business, hence our hesitancy in marketing our efforts. What we believe important, however, is to raise awareness of the causes that we are moved by, in the hope that the circumstances of others less fortunate is never far from people’s minds.

Please join us in changing the world – one loan at a time. Learn more about Kiva.

Simon Turner

Watch Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Kiva, as part of the efforts of the Clinton Foundation.  You can also read our press release or go straight to the Kiva Organisation’s website.

The global market’s erratic performance over the last week has certainly called into question the financial strategies of many (including, it could be said, of the hapless President George W Bush). Regardless of whether one agrees or not in principle or practice with the Federal bailout in the United States, we should at least begin to see a little more stability.

That’s not to say that all will be bright from hereon in. The market crunch, or more specifically the credit crunch, has seeped into all nations and has affected all manner of finances, including Australia. Confidence has definitely been damaged.

The simple fact is that Australian property prices cannot help but be affected given the high levels of debt in Australian households, and our relatively high interest rates as a ratio of household debt to GDP compared to the US.

Even should interest rates be cut further in Australia, as they likely will, we are simply likely to feel an ease of the stress of mortgage pressure rather than an immediate flock to property: the credit crunch has reduced the amount of credit available, and many people have more than enough debt to suggest they’ll have a proclivity to take on more.

The Land of Opportunity

These are also the times of opportunity. With confidence dented all around and property prices sluggish and unlikely to head in any northerly direction for even close to the next 18 months, there are many good buys on the market now, and many that will come onto the market.

Those buyers that are willing to take a long-term view on property values – as one always should (the “quick-buck strategy” is never one that is risk-free) – as well as applying sensible purchasing decisions based on the amount they can borrow with a comfortable buffer in addition to intrinsic good value – will in a few years be looking back upon these times with great satisfaction.

Not panicking during an alleged crisis, taking smart, confident and unemotional decisions, and investing wisely will mean that property – right now and in future – is logical and rewarding as one can hope to find.

What Will Happen Next?

Expect an interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank next week and more in the following 12 months. Expect housing demand in Australia to remain relatively buoyant given our growing population. Expect an easing Australian economy (together with more manageable inflation) due to weakening demand from China, whose economy is heavily hinged on US demand.

Quite simply, so long as share market’s are unappealing, property investment will remain ever the attractive option.

With the average value of homes in Australia having increased by approximately 150 per cent since the millennium began, this well earned increase will generally be retained, and further goes to highlight the intrinsic opportunity that wise, long-term property investment provides.

Simon Turner

IMPORTANT: If you are finding it difficult to cope financially, read our article on Coping with Financial Stress

After the comments both Simon Turner and myself made earlier in the week both predicting and welcoming the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cut to interest rates by 25 basis points, I have received many thoughts from vendors, buyers, agents and other consumers all agreeing that such respite is indeed welcoming.

One response, however, stuck out. A suburban agent who shall remain nameless, in an exceptionally long email to me stated that the cut would make “no difference” to any Australian.

I do not wish to get into a pointless to-and-fro match with someone with whom I will not add credibility to his opinion which was clearly just a cheap attempt at scoring a few visits to his blog, and is ultimately not in touch with reality, but I do wish to reaffirm the positive effects that the RBA’s decision will bring and make clear that negative naysaying is lazy, un-inspiring, and of no help to Australian’s that simply are looking to get-ahead and make ends meet.

The facts are clear – a cut to the interest rate of a home loan of course makes a difference. The major banks had already passed on a quarter of a per cent to fixed rate home loans in the last fortnight, and indeed equaled the RBA’s cut this week, with St George cutting theirs by 30 base points.

Based on a 25-year loan on a new rate of 8.65 per cent, mortgage holders will make the following savings:

Loan Amount Monthly Saving

$200,000 $33.99

$300,000 $50.00

$400,000 $67.99

$500,000 $84.99

$600,000 $101.99

$700,000 $118.99

$800,000 $135.99

A saving is a saving, and more will be welcomed to relieve mortgage stress.  I’m sure an increase by 25 basis points rather than a cut would have made a huge difference to many hip-pockets.  Enough said!

From a global perspective, Australia is looking in pretty good shape. Australian households have cut their spending for the first time since the country was last in recession, whilst business investment has continued. Furthermore, all Australian State and Territory economies have grown, with the added exception of New South Wales (which probably says about as much as the state of Morris Iemma’s hapless government).

We’re not out of the woods yet, but Spring is here and it’s a breath of fresh air!

Michael Marquette

Home owners and investors have welcomed suggestions that the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut interest rates this year, but will the Banks pass the rate cuts onto borrowers?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has told Australians to change banks if they fail to pass on rate reductions. The banks have had no problem increasing rates to levels higher than official rate increases and have even increased rates despite the Reserve Bank keeping them on hold.

In an interview with The Australian Financial Review last week I was asked what it would take to restore confidence in the market. I expect buyers to remain cautious until the banks show that any rate reductions will be passed on. I believe a rate cut of around one per cent is needed to restore buyer confidence as I’m hearing increasingly that buyers and vendors are skeptical that banks will pass on the rate cuts. A reduction of 100 basis points will result in the market reacting in a positive way, even half a per cent will be looked cautiously.

So the question is buy now or wait? The answer is simple. There are some fantastic buys in the market at the moment and this will continue for the foreseeable future. As the stock market wobbles, dividends decrease and share prices drop bricks and mortar will become a major focus for many investors.

If you find the right property at the right price and choose the right lender your decision is an easy one to make. My only advice is to ensure sure that you keep your lender honest, and if “changing banks” as PM Rudd suggests, make sure you are aware of all fees and costs that may apply.

Michael Marquette

With the news that Shadow Treasurer, Malcolm Turnbull, the Member for Wentworth, has purchased three investment properties on his door step, could there be much better confirmation that now is a good time to be investing in real estate?

A clear sign of Mr Turnbull and his wife, former Mayor of Sydney Lucy Turnbull, have every confidence in the real estate market, between them they have purchased two commercial properties and one residential in Potts Point, in the Eastern Suburbs in Sydney and incidentally Marquette Turner’s HQ.

These details were tabled in the changes to the register of MP’s interests in Federal Parliament on Thursday 26 June.

Simon Turner

First home buyers continue to dive into the housing market, despite an affordability crisis gripping much of NSW.

New figures show that the numbers of first home buyers have grown by more than 12% per annum for the last four years, with most choosing Sydney’s South-West and Western suburbs.

The Real Estate Institute of Australia’s Steve Martin notes that people are looking to get out of the rental frustration.

“It’s a bit of a balancing act because property has proven to be a very, very good investment over many years. However first home buyers need to be a little bit careful as far as affordability is concerned.”

Additionally, whilst there are first home buyer incentives offered by the government, the Marquette Turner team recommend those concerned make themselves fully comfortable with the rules and conditions by talking the issues through with their solicitor, conveyancer or accountant. A common roadblock is that 2 first home buyers do NOT receive the full $7000 each in NSW, but share $7000 in total.

Furthermore, you must understand stamp duty ramifications: property values up to $500,000 are exempt from stamp duty in NSW; up to $600,000 the duty is discounted; after $600,000 even a first home-buyer must paid the entire duty.

To learn more, simply download this First Home Buyer Factsheet.

Simon Turner

Peak accounting body CPA Australia has warned that Australians who own rental properties will be under increased scrutiny from the tax office in the coming months.

The ATO is responding to a sharp increase in rental losses (where taxpayers are claiming rental expenses far greater than the actual rental income earned) in recent years. CPA Australia says the ATO will examine 6000 cases and contact tax agents whose clients have unusual patterns of rental expense claims.

The tax office is specifically looking for incorrect interest, excessive deductions for capital works, non-deductible initial repairs and borrowing costs claimed as fully deductible in the year they were claimed.

CPA Australia’s senior tax counsel, Mark Morris, says landlords need to be aware of when certain items can be claimed. For example, interest, body corporate fees, property agent commissions, council rates and maintenance can be claimed in the year they are incurred.

Other items, however, including borrowing costs, depreciation on fittings and fixtures, and some capital works, need to be claimed over a longer period.

Morris’s final bit of advice; make sure your rental documentation is in order and consult a tax agent if you are confused.

Marquette Turner recommends utilising the services of a quantity surveyor, as they will be able to assist you in maximising the tax depreciation potential for your investment properties. See our article of tax tips for investors for more information.

Simon Turner

A recent survey has found 47% of property investors and one third of homeowners could be forced to sell up if interest rates increase by 1%.

This is certainly worrying news for many Australians, at a time when ANZ have predicted interest rates will rise by 0.5% before the end of 2008, with the bank tipping that a 0.25% rise will happen as early as August.

If ANZ is right and the banks continue to raise rates beyond the RBA’s official cash rate increases, the doomsday scenario of rates climbing by a further 1% could eventuate late this year or early next.

The survey of 2331 people by research firm Coredata also found that 76% of respondents are finding mortgage repayments more difficult after seven official interest rate rises in two years, and around 20% of borrowers are using more than half of their total household income on home loan repayments.

One in five respondents say they were running into debt to run their households and 67% claimed their financial situation is worse now than 12 months ago – an increase of 21% from November 2007.

Future interest rate rises may prove controversial. Former Reserve Bank of Australia governor Bernie Fraser says there may be a need to re-think the way the central bank attacks inflation, if rises in food and fuel prices persist.

Lachlan Semple of PSK Financial Services told Marquette Turner that “interest rate increases will further entrench a two-speed economy – slowing household discretionary expenditure while the resources boom continues, driven by insatiable Asian demand. Households, not businesses will feel the pain of recent and future increases, with mortgage servicing costs already up 40% in 12 months. It will feel like a recession in Western Sydney and the the outer suburbs of Melbourne with a subsequent flow on effect to other areas.”

International commentators have noted that Australia is fortunate that it’s government and the RBA have not tried to fend off inflation altogether, but has been quite tough on managing what it can relative to other Western nations.

For those paying higher petrol and food prices, and increasing household income going towards mortgage repayments this is, however, of little comfort for many Australians.

Michael Marquette

The Federal Government will invest $150 million over five years with the aim of halving the number of homeless people turned away from homeless shelters.

A Place to Call Home is Federal Labor’s five year plan to establish up to 600 new houses and units across the country for families and individuals who are homeless.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said in 2005-06 there were 3,383 requests for emergency accommodation (4.4 per cent of the total requests for emergency accommodation) that could not be met.

Federal Labor’s aim is to halve the number of homeless people turned away from shelters each year within five years and close the gap within a decade in an effort to ensure those who are homeless have shelter.

100,000 Australians find themselves homeless on any night. Of these, nearly half are under 24 years of age and 10,000 are children aged twelve or younger.

While the services funded to assist the homeless do their best – they accommodate more than 12,000 at any one time in around 7,500 shelters, units and houses – this is not enough to meet demand.

At Mission Australia’s Women’s Place Service, 56 per cent of the single adult women who seek accommodation are turned away.

In a nation that has experienced 16 consecutive years of economic growth, this is simply not acceptable.

For this reason Marquette Turner wholly supports any initiative that improves the lot of those experiencing difficulties.

With global warming taking a toll on earth and non-renewable fossil fuels hastening the process, designers and engineers are finding innovative ways of conserving and developing green energy in our environment. A merchandise of their efforts is the VEIL solar shades which does more than just transforming sunlight into energy.

Created by Australian design firm Buro North in partnership with the Victorian Eco-Invention Lab, it flaunts a super cool design, unlike the old school drab solar panels. With it’s organic, natural sloping structure, the pattern across the top looks like the veins of a leaf waiting to collect solar energy for photosynthesis.

The VEILs are designed for schoolyards where they have a practical benefit of shading tykes from the hot sun and are partially funded by the Australian government.

The base of the leaf shows which positions are most suitable for maximum energy consumptions at different times of the day and underneath the canopy, the LED feedback system shows whether the shades are getting enough sunlight. It blinks in green when the VEILS are happy eating enough sunlight, and blink Red when they need to be re-positioned. Moreover, they are lightweight so kids can relocate the VEILs.

The budget has introduced a range of measures to address housing affordability.

  • The Government is committing to spend $623 million over four years on a rental affordability scheme that will stimulate the construction of new rental properties by providing investors with $8000 a year for 10 years for each property that they rent out for 80 per cent of the market rent.
  • A fund for affordable housing worth $500 million over four years will also help to increase the supply of new housing by assisting with surrounding infrastructure and cutting obstacles to development approvals.
  • A national housing supply council will oversee the adequacy of the nation’s housing stock for the next 20 years, and the Government is looking for surplus Commonwealth land that could be used for new housing.

Housing Industry Association Managing Director Dr Ron Silberberg said the $21.7 billion surplus would help mitigate interest rate pressures and investment in infrastructure and skills would help reduce inflationary constraints and increase productive capacity.

“Measures aimed at boosting the supply of new housing along with desperately needed urban infrastructure will assist in pegging the gap between underlying demand and current production,” Dr Siberberg said in a statement.

Housing commitments in the budget include $500 million over five years for a housing affordability fund, $623 million over four years for a national rental scheme, $1.17 billion over five years for first home saver accounts and $10 million to assist with financial counselling for Australians facing mortgage and rental stress.

The government had increased investment in skills to address immediate and longer-term needs for tradespeople for the housing industry, according to HIA.

HIA also said it applauded measures aimed at making cities more efficient and productive through new investment in transport, community facilities and services is.

Simon Turner

Carbon Neutral 101 from the Green Building Council (GBCA) has recently received numerous queries on the topics of ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘zero net operating emissions’. We expect that we will continue to hear about projects wishing to pursue these goals.Buildings need to have zero emissions in their construction, operation and embodied energy to be truly carbon neutral.

The challenge has now been set for the property industry to take a closer look at how the buildings can be carbon neutral, including embodied energy by 2020.

Although it is possible to achieve zero net operational carbon emissions from buildings by 2020, truly carbon neutral buildings, including embodied energy are a significant challenge, unless carbon offsetting is used.

How Buildings Achieve Zero Net Operating Emissions

It is possible now for buildings now to achieve zero net operating emissions. There are already a number of projects worldwide that achieve zero net operating emissions.

New and existing buildings are already taking steps towards becoming carbon neutral now by including a range of initiatives and technologies:

  • passive design – by using heavy façade, openable windows for ventilation, and thermal mass insulation it can reduce the heating and cooling load;
  • on-site generation of energy from renewable sources – solar heating, photo-voltaics, wind and geothermal;
  • change to efficient appliances and light fittings, turning off computers, purchasing green power and improving other behaviours; and
  • introducing alternative ways to learn, work and play – hot-desks, working from home, taking lessons outside.
  • In terms of existing buildings, project teams optimise, upgrade or remove HVAC systems, cooling towers, and lifts to reduce energy use.

How Buildings Can Go Carbon Neutral, Including Emodied Energy

Embodied energy includes all the energy it takes to produce a building. This can include energy required for producing and transporting building materials, on-site processes for constructing the building, as well as demolition of the building when time comes.

However, there are some things that can be done now.

  • re-use and reduce materials;
  • re-use and refurbish existing buildings as opposed to constructing new buildings;
  • consider the mode, distance and fuel type when transporting materials; and
  • begin measuring the embodied energy.

What About Green Star?

Green Star – Office Design and Office As Built v3 awards maximum points within the energy category to projects that achieve zero net operating emissions.

Currently in Green Star – Office Design and Office As Built v3 zero net operating emissions include the operation of HVAC systems, lights, hot water, lifts and other base building energy allowances.

Carbon Neutral is currently not specifically awarded in Green Star.

Next Step

Moving from neutral impact to positive impacts…

The environmental impacts beyond energy must be considered. Environmental impacts from buildings must be negated, buildings should be restorative to our environment.

Green Building Council Australia

The Mortgage Assistance Scheme provides short-term help for people in NSW experiencing temporary difficulties with their home loan repayments because of an unavoidable change in circumstances. This may include unemployment, accident, illness or other crisis. The assistance is paid directly to the home lender to take the stress off families.

The NSW Government has announced that it will broaden the eligibility criteria for the scheme to:

• Increase the total cap on the total amount owed on a home loan from $300,000 to $350,000;

• Increase the gross annual household income for eligible applicants from $70,000 to $90,000; and

• Increase the total assistance to be provided over twelve months from $15,000 to $20,000.

“We’re increasing the amount of funds available to assist struggling families by 30 per cent,” Premier Morris Iemma said.

Mr Iemma said 638 families were currently receiving mortgage assistance loans worth $2.6 million.

“The Mortgage Assistance Scheme is a last resort for some home buyers in danger of losing their home. “We’ve broadened the scheme to ensure more families can access these loans. “Another $1.4 million is currently available to be loaned” said Mr Iemma.

Mr Iemma said the Government would also publicise the expanded Mortgage Assistance Scheme

Simon Turner

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