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Housing ACT should deal with ‘undesirables’ who give public tenants a bad name

By Greg Cornwell 22 December 2015 50

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This season of goodwill and new beginnings might not be the most suitable to raise the issue of Housing ACT’s relocation plans for its Northbourne Avenue and Braddon tenants, nevertheless I think I owe it to these often much maligned people to do so.

There have been numerous complaints in the media about the new sites chosen, most referring to the questionable types who will be moving into the neighbourhoods and the increased crime and anti-social behaviour that will accompany them.

Defenders of the moves – and I do not wish to canvas the expensive reasons for them here – accuse the local critics of not-in-my-back-yard or Nimbyism. This acronym is coined by governments and planners to belittle owners who wish to protect their patch from bad development, government land grabs and undesirables being moved into the area.

I freely admit I am a Nimby, as is anyone from Deakin to Dunlop, Calwell to Crace and all points of the suburban ACT compass who has saved and slaved to establish a home in pleasant law-abiding surrounds. Nobody takes kindly to having their lifestyle threatened.

To an extend the ACT government has recognised these objections and sensibly moved away from the ghetto clusters of public housing like Burnie Court in Lyons. The salt and pepper approach is much better, even if, as appears likely from complaints the condiments have been applied too heavily in some places.

Unfortunately Housing ACT has not gone far enough however in its attempts to placate the new neighbours. For better or worse this public landlord and its predecessors have a dreadful reputation for failing to act decisively against the minority of housing tenants who misbehave, thus giving the majority of its dependants a bad name.

Undesirables of all descriptions often are not dealt with at all. At best they simply are relocated, moving the problem elsewhere. The argument for not tossing them into the street is usually the children (which they all have).

I have often wondered if concern for such offspring leads to an improved future or in spite of the taxpayer putting up with their parents’ depredations or crimes these are the youth the lawyers plead for for having experienced traumatic childhoods.

In the interests and reputation of the large majority of respectable honest public housing tenants could I suggest Housing ACT deals out the same intolerance to the undesirable minority as they display to the rest of us?

What’s Your opinion?


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Housing ACT should deal with ‘undesirables’ who give public tenants a bad name
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miz 4:50 pm 04 Jan 16

Masquara said :

I think the old system worked best – ACT Housing could and did put all the druggies and reprobates in together in nominated “druggies and reprobates” housing complexes, and keep them away from the mainstream.

Masquara, would you like such a housing complex next door to you? Of course not. No one does.
This is the whole point – unlike other States and Territories, almost all Canberra suburbs have some public housing, which is supposed to ensure disadvantage is not concentrated and such people are not irretrievably labelled as no hopers simply because of where they live. People make the odd joke, but in reality there is no Canberra suburb equivalent to e.g. Mount Druitt or Elizabeth. No Canberran wants their suburb to become such a place. No Canberran wants another Burnie Court, and Housing ACT has previously gone to significant lengths not to re-establish such problem complexes.
Unfortunately, Housing ACT now appears to be taking steps that unpick this. Perhaps the people now running the show are from elsewhere and do not understand?
Housing ACT continue to claim they are distributing (‘salt and peppering’) and not concentrating public housing dwellings throughout Canberra, but their recent actions seeking approval for complexes solely consisting of public housing dwellings clearly belies this claim. It is therefore reasonable and understandable for Canberrans living near these proposed locations to be furious. It basically boils down to Housing ACT breaching the community’s ‘legitimate expectation’ that they won’t suddenly have a massive Burnie Court on their doorstep.
For example, instead of new big public housing complexes in Greenway, which is a red rag to a bull, surely a proportion of the South Quay development already underway could be allocated for pubic housing. It could easily be legislated that a proportion (15 per cent?) of all new multi developments in Canberra be public housing, which would be ‘proper’ salt and peppering.

SidneyReilly 2:15 pm 03 Jan 16

Me thinks its a bit like finding a solution to peace in the middle east. I dont know the answer….But I do think a good idea would be to not allow “Ghettos” to form yet its not a good solution to move all the trouble makers to modifyed shipping containers at Hume either, but hey its an idea…..

poptop 4:19 pm 01 Jan 16

Unless things have changed a LOT, Housing ACT does not get to evict tenants, the ACAT does. The staff from Housing ACT spend a lot of time presenting the evidence before the tribunal. It is often the case that the Tribunal will not issue an eviction notice.

The Tribunal also tends to take a quite narrow view of its role – if a Public Housing tenant is “undesirable” but not breaching their tenancy agreement they will not issue an eviction notice.

Neighbours of the so-called ‘undesirable’ Housing ACT tenants rarely seek to resolve any concerns they have with the household, preferring to contact Housing ACT and just telling them to fix it. There have been some magical times when the response from Housing ACT has been that the household concerned are not Housing ACT tenants.

What do the concerned neighbours do then?

Housing ACT is a property and tenancy manager; it is obliged to comply with the law as well as the policy objectives of the Government of the day. If the electorate is unhappy with the legal and policy settings under which Housing ACT operates, perhaps it would be more productive to take it up with the Government rather than the agency that does its bidding.

miz 9:41 am 31 Dec 15

Thanks, Citizen Phil. That is very interesting. Do you also know how many tenants were brought before ACAT (an indicator of being a likely’ bad’ tenant from a neighbour’s perspective) but were not ultimately evicted?
and/or roughly how many would have been evicted under the new NSW criteria?

Citizen Phil 7:32 pm 30 Dec 15

dungfungus said :

lynehamovaluser said :

Some public housing tenants had no choice, born with a disability that stopped them from working they were destined to need housing assistance. Stuck next to the guy who bashed his wives and children, drank and gambled his money away, now slightly brain damaged and often drunk and abusive. Social stigma applies equally though, they’re both in ‘guvvie’ housing.
I collected almost two years diary of abuse and threats, with occasional police attendances included against a ‘difficult’ neighbour. The complaint was submitted to Housing ACT some 6 months ago, no reply as yet…The police encourage me to pursue an AVO, however, given the aggression is directed at my pets more than myself,the level of violence he is capable of, the police response time and my continued housing requirements, it is not a great or even good choice.
I thought about applying for a transfer, but I too have no faith in ‘guvvie’ housing and know that I could end up in a worse situation with even worse neighbours.

CULTURAL CHANGE SOLUTION Idea
I suspect that the best thing that could be done is that tenants with ‘issues’, as identified by complaints, should be assigned case managers who can find support services including behavioural modification etc. This should be part of tenancy agreements and enforceable, so that to continue to qualify for public housing you must agree that if you are disruptive etc more than x times you will undergo the support program or your tenancy will be terminated.
Look forward to your avid opposition. Please remember, this is not a fully formulated policy, but an idea, so I can put huge holes in it too, but it’s a starting point, not an end point.

When was the last time ACT Housing evicted anyone?
What is your next solution.

39 tenants in 2014-15

Maya123 10:29 am 30 Dec 15

miz said :

The ACT is surrounded by NSW. If the ACT does not match these sensible criteria we are likely to be inundated with even more problem tenants from NSW than the ones we already have.

They will need to join the long waiting list like everyone else. There are only so many houses.
However, I agree, the rules for public housing tenants are too lenient.

miz 9:03 pm 29 Dec 15

NSW’s position is more sensible:
In case you can’t read the 4 August 2015 Daily Tele article I linked to because of firewalls etc, I quote:

“TOUGH laws to evict criminals from NSW public housing will be introduced to parliament today after the government announced a crackdown on problem tenants during the election campaign.

Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard will introduce laws to the lower house today which allow the immediate eviction of rapists, paedophiles and violent thugs — and anyone convicted of committing a serious offence on public housing property.
Anti-social behaviour by those living in taxpayer-subsidised housing will also be in the firing line — with the laws allowing eviction for people who get three warnings for bad behaviour in a 12-month period.
As part of the reforms any public housing tenancy of two years or more will now be subject to a 12-month probationary lease, neighbours will be able to give confidential statements about criminal and anti-social behaviour and tenants who claim fake rental subsidies will be evicted if they do not pay the money back.

HOW WE BROKE THE STORY IN FEBRUARY
“The majority of public housing residents are law abiding citizens. However you can get bad neighbours,” Mr Hazzard said.

Under the legislation to go into parliament, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) will have a maximum of 28 days to terminate a tenancy where a person has committed serious illegal behaviour in a public housing property.
Immediate evictions would also apply to people who intentionally wreck their public housing property, who use the property as a brothel, or who possess or distribute child abuse material.
People who rebirth cars or boats on public housing property can also be immediately evicted, as well as those found using the property for “any other unlawful purpose” where “the use is sufficient to justify termination”.
The major crackdown was promised by Premier Mike Baird during the 2015 election campaign following the failure of the NCAT to protect vulnerable public housing tenants from thugs and drug dealers.
Cases where the NCAT declined to evict a tenant include an ice dealer operating out of public housing, a drug dealer with multiple convictions and a person who stabbed a neighbour six times with a knife.”

The ACT is surrounded by NSW. If the ACT does not match these sensible criteria we are likely to be inundated with even more problem tenants from NSW than the ones we already have.

Mysteryman 3:37 pm 28 Dec 15

lynehamovaluser said :

CULTURAL CHANGE SOLUTION Idea
I suspect that the best thing that could be done is that tenants with ‘issues’, as identified by complaints, should be assigned case managers who can find support services including behavioural modification etc. This should be part of tenancy agreements and enforceable, so that to continue to qualify for public housing you must agree that if you are disruptive etc more than x times you will undergo the support program or your tenancy will be terminated.
Look forward to your avid opposition. Please remember, this is not a fully formulated policy, but an idea, so I can put huge holes in it too, but it’s a starting point, not an end point.

Good on you for actually having an idea. I like it. I think that’s an approach the government should consider.

Unfortunately, the ACT government is toothless when it comes to dealing with the sorts of people who create these problems for the rest. ACT GovCo seem only too happy to sting people with fines and punishments for all matter of inane offenses, but when it comes to serious trouble makers, they lack the same zeal required to pursue them. It should absolutely be an enforceable part of their tenancy agreement – if they don’t correct the trouble making behaviour they should lose their home. Simple as that.

dungfungus 10:03 am 28 Dec 15

lynehamovaluser said :

Some public housing tenants had no choice, born with a disability that stopped them from working they were destined to need housing assistance. Stuck next to the guy who bashed his wives and children, drank and gambled his money away, now slightly brain damaged and often drunk and abusive. Social stigma applies equally though, they’re both in ‘guvvie’ housing.
I collected almost two years diary of abuse and threats, with occasional police attendances included against a ‘difficult’ neighbour. The complaint was submitted to Housing ACT some 6 months ago, no reply as yet…The police encourage me to pursue an AVO, however, given the aggression is directed at my pets more than myself,the level of violence he is capable of, the police response time and my continued housing requirements, it is not a great or even good choice.
I thought about applying for a transfer, but I too have no faith in ‘guvvie’ housing and know that I could end up in a worse situation with even worse neighbours.

CULTURAL CHANGE SOLUTION Idea
I suspect that the best thing that could be done is that tenants with ‘issues’, as identified by complaints, should be assigned case managers who can find support services including behavioural modification etc. This should be part of tenancy agreements and enforceable, so that to continue to qualify for public housing you must agree that if you are disruptive etc more than x times you will undergo the support program or your tenancy will be terminated.
Look forward to your avid opposition. Please remember, this is not a fully formulated policy, but an idea, so I can put huge holes in it too, but it’s a starting point, not an end point.

When was the last time ACT Housing evicted anyone?
What is your next solution.

Maya123 11:46 am 27 Dec 15

Steven Gibbs said :

Anyone next to a Mr Fluffy? That’s about to be public housing. The government is over valuing properties so that the previous home owners can’t go back and public housing can move in.

I’ve seen several houses I believe were Mr Fluffy in my area come down. The replacement MacMansions going up are not public housing. I’m guessing the owners chose to get the fluffy house removed and rebuild themselves, or sold the block privately to others who are doing this. There are likely other Mr Fluffy houses though.

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