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Public Housing not an unconditional home for life?

By 15 March 2012 120

The Age has the long overdue news that the ACT Government is going to move to turf high income earners out of public housing.

The ACT Government is powerless to force middle-class households out of government homes, despite thousands of families being on the waiting lists.

Instead, housing bureaucrats can only ask tenants on more than $80,000 per year to ”reconsider” their continued presence in public housing.

But Housing Minister Joy Burch is considering legislative changes to send a message that public housing is not an unconditional home for life.

Roslyn Dundas from the ACT Council of Social Services predictably thinks this idea is not so great.

UPDATE 15/03/12 12:00: The Greens are not at all happy about the proposals:

ACT Greens Health spokesperson, Amanda Bresnan MLA, has described the ACT Government’s proposal to take market renters out of public housing as lacking a long-term vision for public housing.

“The Government is proposing an extremely short term solution to Housing ACT’s long waiting list. There also is no detail at all about how they would replace the revenue lost from those paying market rent,” Ms Bresnan said.

“In most of these cases we are probably talking about single, middle aged to older women, with very little superannuation. We need to think about what will happen to them in the long term.

“We also face the situation where if tenants believe they will be evicted once they earn a certain income, they could choose to stay in their home and earn a lower income. This is counterproductive to the aim of giving people stability and the ability to be a contributing member of the community.

“Tenants who can get to the stage of paying market rent in Housing ACT properties are able to subsidise those other tenants on low incomes.

“Evicting market renters will only make the Housing ACT portfolio more unviable. The Government needs to show the cost of replacing this revenue. There was no accounting for this in the Public Housing Asset Management Strategy that was just released late last year.

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120 Responses to Public Housing not an unconditional home for life?
#1
colourful sydney rac10:11 am, 15 Mar 12

Not before time.

#2
poetix10:27 am, 15 Mar 12

I can’t believe that someone with a household income of $183,000 is in public housing, according to the article.

Anyone on a decent income who holds on to public housing should be ashamed of themselves, given there are really desperate people in our community.

#3
colourful sydney rac10:35 am, 15 Mar 12

poetix said :

I can’t believe that someone with a household income of $183,000 is in public housing, according to the article.

Anyone on a decent income who holds on to public housing should be ashamed of themselves, given there are really desperate people in our community.

If the report is accurate it is an absolute disgrace.

#4
VYBerlinaV8_is_back10:35 am, 15 Mar 12

This is a good move, and long overdue.

#5
p110:46 am, 15 Mar 12

I always thought it should be a simple process to charge rent in public housing based on the persons income (take home income if you like, so it doesn’t punish people paying child support or other similar things). If a house hold earning $100k+ was paying double the market rent they would soon consider moving…

It would be pretty simple to check with the taxation system, and base it on the previous years taxable income (unless they lost their job).

Of course, kicking them out will also work, but it won’t solve the issue of housing shortages.

#6
AnimosiTy10:47 am, 15 Mar 12

Roslyn Dundas is probably one of thoes smug *%}* in a govy house!! lol
how can anyone on a decent wage be so selfish to stay there… do they remember what it was like to struggle to find affordable accommodation?!
time they moved on… and let others who are in lower incomes get back on their feet too!!!!
I can’t wait till this happens! we should NOT be supporting thoes who can support themselves! kick the bastards out I say!!! about time!

#7
chewy1410:54 am, 15 Mar 12

p1 said :

I always thought it should be a simple process to charge rent in public housing based on the persons income (take home income if you like, so it doesn’t punish people paying child support or other similar things). If a house hold earning $100k+ was paying double the market rent they would soon consider moving…

It would be pretty simple to check with the taxation system, and base it on the previous years taxable income (unless they lost their job).

Of course, kicking them out will also work, but it won’t solve the issue of housing shortages.

Exactly.

Why doesn’t the government just charge a percentage of income once you’re earning over a certain amount?
I’m sure paying $600 a week for a place worth $400 would be a great incentive to get your butt out of the public housing system and back into private.

#8
Cheap11:02 am, 15 Mar 12

I thought it was done as a percentage of your income? Or have they made sure that you never pay market rate for a house?

Actually come to think of it, I have a friend whose parents were both moderately high ranking public servants (probably $160,000 combined) who until last year still lived in public housing. It was quite a nice house, close to civic and indistinguishable from neighbouring private houses.

#9
VYBerlinaV8_is_back11:08 am, 15 Mar 12

I reckon we should think about implementing a scheme where the govt rents property from private investors then ‘on-rents’ it to public housing tenants. That way it would be possible to increase or decrease the supply of housing as need be, and properties could be rented on a longer term basis much like Defence Housing.

Of course, some effort would need to be made to ensure properties weren’t damaged, and ways found to idenfity wear and tear versus damage, but these things could be dealt with.

We could then link such a scheme to tax benefits for people who develop new dwellings for such a scheme, to encourage increase in overall supply.

#10
colourful sydney rac11:09 am, 15 Mar 12

Cheap said :

I thought it was done as a percentage of your income? Or have they made sure that you never pay market rate for a house?

Actually come to think of it, I have a friend whose parents were both moderately high ranking public servants (probably $160,000 combined) who until last year still lived in public housing. It was quite a nice house, close to civic and indistinguishable from neighbouring private houses.

$160,000 combined does not make someone moderately high ranking in the APS.

My understanding is that tennants are charged 25% of their income or market rates whichever is less. It does seem that the easist way of dealing with this is to remove the ‘market rates’ aspect and just make it 25% of income.

#11
bitzermaloney11:25 am, 15 Mar 12

It appeared to be Greens’ policy back in 2008 to remain in public housing:

http://the-riotact.com/deb-foskey-in-public-housing-debate-gets-more-exposure/529

If it’s good enought for members of the MLA, why not everyone else. (Note: Deb finally did move out of her public housing in Yarralumla, but not after a huge amount of preasure). I wonder if Shane, Carolyn, Amanda and Meridith have removed themselves from the waiting list?

Finally Roslyn Dundas is a former MLA for the Democrats. She was elected (with a huge 3.95% of first preferences… informal votes were 3.99%) because either:
(1) the voters of Canberra believed that a 22yr ANU student union rep had more life experience then the other candidates put forward in Ginniderra; or
(2) there wasn’t a “None of the above” options, which should be mandatory for all elections (especially our shire council).

I propose that “None of the above” be made mandatory, and if it gets enough votes (using our convoluted Hare-Clarke system), then those seats remain vacant saving us not only dollars but also increasing our standard of living by not having to listen to additional whinges by people who have nothing to say but feel they should say it anyway.

#12
JessP11:27 am, 15 Mar 12

Public housing is for people who need help not people earning (relatively) good wages. Guvmint also needs to move on the elderly (or not so elderly) long time tennants liiving alone in a 3 bedder when the kiddies have moved out. These people need to be helped into a more appropriate home/unit and allow struggling families to get off the waiting list.

Having a govvie should not mean that you automatically keep it for life.

#13
devils_advocate11:37 am, 15 Mar 12

colourful sydney racing identity said :

My understanding is that tennants are charged 25% of their income or market rates whichever is less. It does seem that the easist way of dealing with this is to remove the ‘market rates’ aspect and just make it 25% of income.

This assumes (wrongly, in my view) that people won’t change their income earning behaviour (ie earn less) or otherwise manipulate their income to continue recieving the benefit.

#14
devils_advocate11:39 am, 15 Mar 12

bitzermaloney said :

I propose that “None of the above” be made mandatory, and if it gets enough votes (using our convoluted Hare-Clarke system), then those seats remain vacant saving us not only dollars but also increasing our standard of living by not having to listen to additional whinges by people who have nothing to say but feel they should say it anyway.

agree, but would go one step further and say that if there aren’t sufficient votes in favour of electing enough members, the Legislative Assembly gets shut down and the self-government law gets repealed.

#15
dungfungus11:50 am, 15 Mar 12

chewy14 said :

p1 said :

I always thought it should be a simple process to charge rent in public housing based on the persons income (take home income if you like, so it doesn’t punish people paying child support or other similar things). If a house hold earning $100k+ was paying double the market rent they would soon consider moving…

It would be pretty simple to check with the taxation system, and base it on the previous years taxable income (unless they lost their job).

Of course, kicking them out will also work, but it won’t solve the issue of housing shortages.

Exactly.

Why doesn’t the government just charge a percentage of income once you’re earning over a certain amount?
I’m sure paying $600 a week for a place worth $400 would be a great incentive to get your butt out of the public housing system and back into private.

I think the maximum rent payable to ACT Housing is capped at $500pw. This is the Government’s assessment of what rental values are in the ACT. This does not include any contribution to rates, water/sewerage or maintainence). Some houses owned by Housing are in older suburbs with enormous blocks – if privately owned the annual rates alone would be $4,000 so the ACT taxpayer is subsidising this indulgence. It is absurd to allow this to continue.

#16
marcothepolopony11:58 am, 15 Mar 12

Recently I have noticed the departure of an elderly lady who had raised her children in her three bedroom government home over the past 35 years.
Her garden was immaculate and well established; she took much pride in her little home. But she lived there alone these days, ‘time to go Mrs’.

Over the past months since the new tenant moved in the house and yard have fallen into disrepair, with overflowing bins, garbage bags all over the front “lawn”, papers and other rubbish just about everywhere you can see.
Naturally with the rain the ‘lawn’ has become an eyesore, not mown in months by the looks.

So for the neighbours of this govie who do take pride, it must have been a shock to get a new tenant with no respect for their lovely new government home. I feel for the neighbours and those, like me, who must pass by every day. It’s a mess.

#17
Watson12:23 pm, 15 Mar 12

I am torn on this. I think the Greens do make some valid points. Not sure about the “they may need it later” argument. But I do agree that it would be bad management to go ahead with this without a detailed financial plan that covers how Housing will deal with that loss of revenue. So not saying that it won’t be a good move, but I’d like to see the figures first.

I also agree with the fact that they should spend some thought on how to deal with people trying to reduce their income to keep their house. This is not just an issue with public housing, but with all income tested government assistance. I haven’t got a solution, but a balance needs to be found between allocating the money to who really needs it whilst giving people enough incentive to earn more income. I get family tax benefits and struggle with this myself sometimes. Any rise in my pay results in receiving 50% less of that amount in FTB. Which makes it appear as if any extra hours I work are only paid at half the normal rate. I’m not whingeing about it! I’m very grateful for the assistance I get. Just trying to explain how this can be an obstacle for some people.

#18
sneakers12:37 pm, 15 Mar 12

““The Government is proposing an extremely short term solution to Housing ACT’s long waiting list. There also is no detail at all about how they would replace the revenue lost from those paying market rent,” Ms Bresnan said.”

I didn’t have time to read all of this, but this statement doesn’t make sense.

Firstly, yes, they are providing a solution to the long waiting list. Coolngroovy.

Secondly, how are they going to replace the revenue? Is that for real? By replacing old tenants who can now afford their own place with new tenants who have been waiting for who knows how long.

Jeezus .. is this too easy or am I overlooking something?

#19
p112:46 pm, 15 Mar 12

sneakers said :

Secondly, how are they going to replace the revenue? Is that for real? By replacing old tenants who can now afford their own place with new tenants who have been waiting for who knows how long.

Jeezus .. is this too easy or am I overlooking something?

Well, if the people they are kicking out were paying the $500/w cap in rent. And the people that they are putting in the houses are very needy, and will pay the minimum (lets say, $50/w), then that could be $23,400 dollars less per house received in rent per year….

#20
Genie1:31 pm, 15 Mar 12

It’s about time !!

A little birdy told me the other day that a neighbour of theirs recently bought a house and their children now live in the public housing property. It ashames me that our gov’ment allows this to happen.

And while I love some of my quiet elderly neighbours, there are several 3-4 bedroom houses on my street currently occupied by single occupants. Surely a family can make better use of these larger houses.

#21
Erg01:43 pm, 15 Mar 12

p1 said :

sneakers said :

Secondly, how are they going to replace the revenue? Is that for real? By replacing old tenants who can now afford their own place with new tenants who have been waiting for who knows how long.

Jeezus .. is this too easy or am I overlooking something?

Well, if the people they are kicking out were paying the $500/w cap in rent. And the people that they are putting in the houses are very needy, and will pay the minimum (lets say, $50/w), then that could be $23,400 dollars less per house received in rent per year….

They’re clearly doing it wrong. They should kick out all of the low income earners and replace them with market renters, then we’d have the most profitable public housing system in the world!

#22
bitzermaloney1:53 pm, 15 Mar 12

devils_advocate said :

agree, but would go one step further and say that if there aren’t sufficient votes in favour of electing enough members, the Legislative Assembly gets shut down and the self-government law gets repealed.

That would be logical, however unfortunately under Hare-Clarke you only need about 14 – 16% to get voted in (depending on the number if seats for the electorate). To have no representatives at all you’d need to get approx 85% to vote “none of the above”.

#23
bitzermaloney1:54 pm, 15 Mar 12

Watson said :

I am torn on this. I think the Greens do make some valid points. Not sure about the “they may need it later” argument.

I think this was Deb Fosky’s arguement, and probably a viable one for some of our current MLA’s.

#24
VYBerlinaV8_is_back1:58 pm, 15 Mar 12

Erg0 said :

p1 said :

sneakers said :

Secondly, how are they going to replace the revenue? Is that for real? By replacing old tenants who can now afford their own place with new tenants who have been waiting for who knows how long.

Jeezus .. is this too easy or am I overlooking something?

Well, if the people they are kicking out were paying the $500/w cap in rent. And the people that they are putting in the houses are very needy, and will pay the minimum (lets say, $50/w), then that could be $23,400 dollars less per house received in rent per year….

They’re clearly doing it wrong. They should kick out all of the low income earners and replace them with market renters, then we’d have the most profitable public housing system in the world!

What seems crazy to me is the idea that having less people on the streets and public housing kept for those in the most need will somehow not cost more than the current system. If we want better outcomes, we need to pay for them.

#25
devils_advocate2:36 pm, 15 Mar 12

bitzermaloney said :

To have no representatives at all you’d need to get approx 85% to vote “none of the above”.

How do we know it wouldn’t happen unless we give people the option? “None of the above” would certainly get my vote. Hell I could even see myself campaigning for it.

Maybe a RIOTAct poll is required? I’m not saying it would be representative, but it would be at least interesting.

#26
EvanJames2:41 pm, 15 Mar 12

I hate to say it, but reading the Greens’ statement, I figure that an actual survey of just who is in public housing would be a good idea.

I never would have thought I’d qualify for public housing, but I earn well below $80k so I guess I would.

A situation where well-off people are occupying public housing while poor people couch-surf and live in their cars is pretty bloody disgusting though, and clearly the rules need to be re-drawn.

#27
devils_advocate3:04 pm, 15 Mar 12

EvanJames said :

A situation where well-off people are occupying public housing while poor people couch-surf and live in their cars is pretty bloody disgusting though, and clearly the rules need to be re-drawn.

I would actually go a step further and say the whole concept of direct government provision of housing needs to be revised from first principles.

If we take into account opportunity cost, the government can’t provide the service any more cheaply than the private sector. Actually I would question if this is the case even based on direct cost.

Secondly, I can imagine some reasons why the Government might want to provide housing services directly, rather than just paying a realistic social security payment and allowing individuals to optimise their consumption bundle based on the amount of money (i.e. the argument that if they get the rent money as cash rather than in-kind, they’ll spend it on something irresponsible). But given the current use of the benefits provided through direct assistance, I remain to be convinced that the current situation is superior to a cash assistance model. It’s entirely plausible that there is a small, troublesome minority on whose account the direct government provision of housing is justified.

so basically my suggestion is that
a) someone get some data, as suggested above and
b) someone who knows something about stuff and things sit down with a blank piece of paper and come up with a system that achieves its intended outcomes.

/rant.

#28
Thoroughly Smashed3:13 pm, 15 Mar 12

devils_advocate said :

colourful sydney racing identity said :

My understanding is that tennants are charged 25% of their income or market rates whichever is less. It does seem that the easist way of dealing with this is to remove the ‘market rates’ aspect and just make it 25% of income.

This assumes (wrongly, in my view) that people won’t change their income earning behaviour (ie earn less) or otherwise manipulate their income to continue recieving the benefit.

Would you forgo 75% of a salary increase just to avoid paying 25% of it in additional rent?

Functionally CSRI’s suggestion makes the rent payment system just another tax. Most people I know are happy for their income to increase, despite the ATO’s cut.

There are whackjob tax protesters out there who deliberately earn less money because they read about someone doing it in some shitty novel and/or don’t understand marginal rate taxation, but there aren’t many of them.

#29
steveu3:14 pm, 15 Mar 12

its time there was a full audit of all public haousing in the territory.

Also, a revamp of the policies surrounding the use of such properties. For example, if you build a collection of domestic rubbish in your driveway say 12″ x 12″, then you should be asked to leave. You damage the property you are leasing, you should be asked to leave.

Simple.

And whilst I think I will get howled down by then, I believe you should be a ‘fit and proper person” to occupy governemtn-subsidised housing too. In other words, if you have committed a crime against society (ie. criminal conviction) then you shoudl not be allowed to occupy a government subsidised house. I mean if public servants can technically be dismissed for criminal convictions on this basis…why not public housing tenants?

I just believe public housing is there for people in need, and those who are willing to show respect to our community. And a heck of alot of public housing tentants do that. Unfortunately, there is a percentage there that does not, and some consideration needs to be given to the above in this regard.

#30
Chop713:19 pm, 15 Mar 12

Public Housing in the ACT is a rort. Why should the average Jo support someone in Public housing earning $180k per year? Even if they are paying Market Rent, which I doubt anyone actually does, there is still admisitration and other expenses that ACT Housing covers.

Come on Greens, You really do have some nitwit ideas. (Al, I hope you’re not part of this)

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