29 June 2005

Housing a grand debate

| Kerces
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I think this is probably just the Opposition oppositioning, but housing spokesperson Jacqui Burke (no shadows in my style guide) has some interesting comments to make about ACT public housing and what the governnment’s not doing about it.

This includes

“This Government promised it would not reduce public housing stock, but now what it is saying is that there will be no further spending on capital works in public housing.
“Why? Because this Minister forgot to ask for it or was rolled in cabinet on the importance of public housing.
“Instead we have unnecessary expenditure on pet projects like the arboretum, which will undoubtedly go over budget.”

and also

“[We have] a prisoner with a life sentence who still holds a public housing property and people who can afford to be in the private market taking up valuable public housing assets.”

The government thinks it’s doing the right thing by public housing, Hargreaves having announced on Friday and Saturday the near completion of 20 appartments in Gungahlin for accomodation for low-income single people and the completion fo 24 older persons’ units in Lyons respectively.

Both the press releases announcing these (not on the net yet as far as I can tell) were accompanied by comments about how the government has done nothing but improve public housing since it’s been in power and how these developments show that they are changing with the times and needs of the Canberra people — one of the criticisms levelled at them by Mrs Burke.

I personally don’t know much about public housing, but I realise there’s a lot of debate about what should or shouldn’t happen and think there are interesting points to be taken from both sides of the Legislative Assembly.

[ED – There is now a highly informative comment from MLA Jacqui Burke in the comments section of this post.]

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Holden Caulfield5:20 pm 10 Dec 08

Back away from the car. Slowly with your hands on your head…

Jane Hansard11:59 am 02 Jul 05

There have been some interesting tenants. Professor Allan Snyder of ‘researching genius’ fame occupied an ACT Housing flat in Civic – one of the Allawah flats – for many years while he accumulated a property portfolio. He had a flat in Elizabeth Bay and a house in Reid divided into two flats, both rented out, and occupied the guvvie flat quite legally. There was a scandal at the time about rich people occupying guvvies, but at the time, believe it or not, a Housing spokesman said he thought the ‘shame’ of living in public housing would mean that anyone cashed up wouldn’t do so.

On Deb Foskey, why not allow people who are on insecure high incomes simply pay 23 or 25 per cent – whatever the standard is – of whatever income they are getting, however high? That way people like Deb who genuinely are unlikely to be on a high income for long, and should be allowed to look to their long-term interests, can decide whether it’s worth paying $500 a week in the short term, so they can go back to subsidised rent when they need to.

I think that’s what “security of tenure” is based upon Jane.

As holy cow’s go I personally think it’s one of the dumber ones I’ve seen but the competition is fierce

Jane Hansard6:32 pm 29 Jun 05

Are Canberrans aware that once in, public housing tenants are there to stay? There is a tenant in inner north Canberra who got a three-bedroom house on the basis that his two sons came to stay (they are living in another three-beddie in the inner north). One son has stayed over for FIVE NIGHTS in the five years this man has had the house, and the other son ONCE, because the man is a deadbeat alcoholic. He has been on the dole for 20 years, and before that had a pre-HECS free art education. He is occupying $500,000 worth of government housing for life. Then he will use an inheritance from middle-class parents to purchase the house for cash, eventually.
Average inner-north rates are more than the $35 a week he is paying for the house.
Meanwhile families are put up in hotels and young children lead disrupted lives. Why is’nt this fellow transferred to a flat?
NB that’s six inner-north bedrooms occupied by a family of four. No-one would begrudge the mum having a great inner-north house, but this is welfare housing gone mad.

Having only recently left employment at Housing ACT I can tell you that there are bigger problems in Housing ACT than the waiting list, or broken electoral promises about capital works funding. Chief amongst those is staff morale.

People can do amazing things if they are committed to achieving a positive outcome, but when the only thing that gets them to work is the paycheck at the end of the fortnight, well, what sort of organisational unity do you think that creates?

Jacqui Burke MLA10:11 am 28 Jun 05

I have continued to follow your lively debate regarding the Public Housing system in the ACT. I have valued some of the comments as being constructive, thoughtful and insightful in this area of social policy.

I am (unlike the Stanhope Labor Government) prepared to try and further this debate and generate more robust public discussion in order that we in the ACT will have a Public Housing system that meets those people who are most vulnerable and in need. I have read with interest what you all feel, firstly about eligibility and secondly, the long term sustainability and viability of public housing in the ACT – in other words, a public tax payer owned asset.

Although much of the debate and/or argument has been generated around Dr Deb Foskey’s circumstances, (which she has made quite clear will not change in the foreseeable future regardless of public sentiment) the issue is obviously much broader and goes much deeper. Surely, at the heart of this whole debate is a public housing system, initially created back in the early days of the development of Canberra, to attract people to come and live and work in the City.

It is now time to review this system to determine how it will function and cater for the needs of the people who access public housing into the future.

Such investigations should be charged with finding fair and equitable solutions to issues such as eligibility; management of both property AND people; and streamlining the service in order that, on a case by case basis, Government is able to not only adequately house people, but more importantly appropriately house them.

As Shadow Minister for Housing I have a differing view to my Labor colleagues in Government and the cross-bench. However, no one can hide from the fact that over time there must be a more sustainable solution to providing adequate sources of funding, to operate a public housing system for people who meet the specified eligibility criteria.

I am prepared to receive constructive criticism on this vital public policy debate – after all that is what I am here for and it would be important for the Government to be a little more vocal on this.

The only word I have heard from the Government is in relation to maintaining its policy of ‘security of tenure’, however, there has been little dialogue in relation to how they can adjust the current system in order to house more people on the waiting list.

On a major point of clarification and in regard to the Liberal position concerning people in public housing, there appears to be a misconception that we would remove all full market renters from the system. This simply is not the case.

Emphasis should of course be placed upon supporting those on high incomes, who have passed the full market rent threshold, to move through the system.

The Liberal Opposition unequivocally maintains a position that there will always be a need for Government to provide housing for those most in need.

Incidentally, according to its own Asset Management Strategy 2003 – 2008, the Government cannot guarantee ‘security of tenure’ to every tenant. It cannot sustain its own policy on housing given the Minister recently conceded that, at this point in time, it also cannot commit to an election promise of an additional $10million each year for three years for capital works for public housing.

If the Government will not commit to more funds to public housing and yet continue to offer security of tenure, how will it be in the position to offer housing to those on the waiting list?

Most people, who are not in public housing, do not have an ironclad guarantee of ‘security of tenure’ in regard to the private property in which they reside.

If the Stanhope Government continues on the current path, it will never free up properties for the ever-growing number of people on the public housing waiting list.

A rigorous debate is needed on our public housing system. We need changes to the system to ensure those who are in a position to, can make the transition from public housing to the private market.

Further to this, we must also see a streamlined approach to how to best utilise public housing properties, in order to maximise the use of the most valuable asset base in the ACT.

Your feedback is welcome via email at burke@parliament.act.gov.au

NSW has recently ditched security of tenure. And I think they will be regularly assessing public housing tenants’ assets and income to see if they continue to qualify for public housing.

the whole security of tenure thing is a dog of an idea.

A huge chunk of the population is posted to different locations on a regular basis. they have to adapt to the communities they’re in.

The rest of us don’t have these “rights” but we have to pay for them for others. If I move house less than once a year I consider it a bonus.

Vic Bitterman11:02 pm 27 Jun 05

What is even worse : we have a legislative assembly minister – deb foskey – proudly flying her housing commission underdog flag, despite her earning excess of $100k per year.

She smugly bludges off our taxes day to day.

The taxpayers of Canberra have every right to be physically sick.

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