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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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50 Responses to
Housing ACT should deal with ‘undesirables’ who give public tenants a bad name
Genie 11:52 am 23 Dec 15

ib6ub9qt said :

This opens a real can of dichotomy worms. Whilst the suggestion to make the “Undesirables” homeless is bound to raise the ire of some, and in itself seems like a cruel and heartless act, is it any less heartless to expect other tenants to tolerate the behaviour and to also expect those who are currently homeless to remain on a waiting list whilst the undesirables remain in place?

When worded as “If you don’t look after your toys and play nicely, then they will be given to someone who will actually appreciate them” it seems a perfectly reasonable proposition.

If we make them homeless, someone else gets a home. Society itself is no worse off at all and the example it sets may go a long way to curbing anti-social behaviour of those who are under the impression they can not get evicted, because that would be heartless.

Consequential thinking skills are never developed in those who face no consequences for their behaviour.

I 100% agree with your statement of, “If you don’t look after your toys and play nicely, then they will be given to someone who will actually appreciate them” and honestly feel that people who deliberately trash public housing should be sent off to shelters to live, until they can appreciate what was given to them. Repeat offenders should be banned from getting public housing. Not to push the problem onto the private rentals, but these people need a wake up call. If they have trashed properties for mental health reasons, then perhaps they need to be in care for awhile.

So yes, I do suggest making them homeless, because without the public housing assistance they very well would likely be homeless. Life lessons ! Their welfare payments should be cut/reduced to pay off the damages as well. (does this already happen?)

Also the age of entitlement needs to end. ACT housing needs to do more to reassess people currently living in public housing. There are so many elderly people living in 3 and 4 bedroom homes, just because they have been in the property for decades. Their children are all grown up and have moved on. There are families who need these larger properties, and the current tenants should be moved on to smaller houses.

HOWEVER ! In saying that I’m also a firm believer that if you’re on welfare with 2 kids living in a 3 bedroom home, and years later you now have 5 kids and are demanding a 6 beddy mansion from the Government. You want the larger space, go get a job to pay for it yourself.

TuggLife 9:20 am 23 Dec 15

SR1985 said :

I think it is about time that the few bad eggs are dealt with. we recently moved from a house with a public housing tenant who smashed up our car and property because my wife turned down his advances. What did ACT housing do, nothing other than say he won’t do it again. Well we are out $6,000 in damages and we’re advised we would be unlikely to get any back through the courts because he is on welfare. So he has money for smokes and beer but not enough to repay his damage.

Turf him out and I wouldn’t lose any sleep.

Why would you expect Housing ACT to fix it, particularly if it’s in relation to an illegal act with damage to your property? Surely it’s a police matter, or a civil matter you could take to the ACAT. What would you have done if your neighbour owned or privately rented their house?

miz 7:32 am 23 Dec 15

I have been informed by a Canadian friend who hails from Calgary that refuges/shelters there are located in industrial areas and NOT in suburbia as they cause way too many problems. In that way chronically troublesome members of society (lengthy crim history, entrenched homeless, history of anti-social behaviour, released prisoners etc) do not cause the kind of difficulties described by SR1985 and the general community is more willing to have trouble-free public housing near them.
Public housing was not stigmatised in Canberra until they started to severely target it. Until then you still had a mix (and older tenancies tend to be quiet, sensible neighbours). Now however, only the seriously disadvantaged have any chance of getting public housing so they tend to have clusters of entrenched problems.
I also think Clone’s idea has merit #9.
Either way, something has to be done to ensure Burnie Court/ABC Flats are not simply reestablished elsewhere and ordinary Canberrans minding their own business are not detrimentally affected. Unfortunately, no one trusts this government, as they obviously just want to relocate large numbers of tenants to make way for the stupid tram.

No_Nose 11:24 pm 22 Dec 15

miz said :

Other jurisdictions have consequences for badly behaved tenants. We should too.

What are the consequences that other jurisdictions have? Can you be more specific to what other areas are doing in regard to this?

This is a serious question by the way, in case you thought otherwise… obviously the ACT has been unable to come up with any viable solution, and I can’t think of one, so am interested as to what other areas have been able to do.

For example…how do they deal with a family in public housing that causes major problems to their neighbours? After they move them a couple of times do they just kick the family and children out into the street? Do they take the children away from the family and foster them, just kicking the parents out? I can see that being open to a raft of law suits. What do they do?

To me it seems an impossible situation for the government.

rommeldog56 8:27 pm 22 Dec 15

rommeldog56 said :

TuggLife said :

One of the statements made by an objector in Nicholls earlier this year said that they feared public housing because it would bring “drug addicts, paedophiles and other people with mental disabilities” into their community. There are already “drug addicts, paedophiles and other people with mental disabilities” living in your community, even without public housing.

I think this discussion has been had before.

You correctly observe that there are already drug addicts, paedophiles, etc, living in the community. The “salt & pepper” approach just add to that by spreading those out more evenly throughout Canberra. I think people have a right to be alarmed if there were more drug addicts, paedophiles, etc, being concentrated into their suburb by ACT Housing.

And that is just to free up the land where they are currently housed so developers can make a motza out of re developing it.

See post # 17 in this recent thread on RiotAct re salt & pepper in Franklin too :

http://the-riotact.com/franklin-pc-to-fight-housing-proposal/159521

That is what people are concerned about – justifiably so in my view. Nimbyism here I come…….

agent_clone 8:08 pm 22 Dec 15

Something I would suggest for public housing is to have a mix of lower and middle income tenants. The middle income parties would be able to afford full market rate rent (creating income for new housing stock), while the lower income tenants have subsidised rent. This would allow ACT housing to enlargen the potential supply of housing, and reduce the stigma surrounding those who are in public housing (Canberra used to not have such a stigma surrounding public housing because in the 60’s and 70’s they used it to attract people to Canberra).
It would also potentially provide greater stability in housing for some middle income tenants.

chewy14 8:04 pm 22 Dec 15

The government should only own a miniscule amount of public housing appropriately located for special needs cases.

The vast majority of public housing tenants are good and should simply be provided with rent assistance to organise private rentals of their own.

It would fix the vast majority of this issue as private landlords are not going to be anywhere near as lenient to bad behaviour or property damage as ACT Housing is.

rommeldog56 6:24 pm 22 Dec 15

TuggLife said :

One of the statements made by an objector in Nicholls earlier this year said that they feared public housing because it would bring “drug addicts, paedophiles and other people with mental disabilities” into their community. There are already “drug addicts, paedophiles and other people with mental disabilities” living in your community, even without public housing.

I think this discussion has been had before.

You correctly observe that there are already drug addicts, paedophiles, etc, living in the community. The “salt & pepper” approach just add to that by spreading those out more evenly throughout Canberra. I think people have a right to be alarmed if there were more drug addicts, paedophiles, etc, being concentrated into their suburb by ACT Housing.

And that is just to free up the land where they are currently housed so developers can make a motza out of re developing it.

SR1985 5:59 pm 22 Dec 15

I think it is about time that the few bad eggs are dealt with. we recently moved from a house with a public housing tenant who smashed up our car and property because my wife turned down his advances. What did ACT housing do, nothing other than say he won’t do it again. Well we are out $6,000 in damages and we’re advised we would be unlikely to get any back through the courts because he is on welfare. So he has money for smokes and beer but not enough to repay his damage.

Turf him out and I wouldn’t lose any sleep.

Maya123 5:24 pm 22 Dec 15

ib6ub9qt said :

This opens a real can of dichotomy worms. Whilst the suggestion to make the “Undesirables” homeless is bound to raise the ire of some, and in itself seems like a cruel and heartless act, is it any less heartless to expect other tenants to tolerate the behaviour and to also expect those who are currently homeless to remain on a waiting list whilst the undesirables remain in place?

When worded as “If you don’t look after your toys and play nicely, then they will be given to someone who will actually appreciate them” it seems a perfectly reasonable proposition.

If we make them homeless, someone else gets a home. Society itself is no worse off at all and the example it sets may go a long way to curbing anti-social behaviour of those who are under the impression they can not get evicted, because that would be heartless.

Consequential thinking skills are never developed in those who face no consequences for their behaviour.

I sort of agree with your sentiment, except that to make the bad tenants homeless might make them a bigger problem for society. I mean, releasing those with criminal and maybe mental health issues too onto society at large, with even less to lose, what might they do!

ib6ub9qt 3:04 pm 22 Dec 15

This opens a real can of dichotomy worms. Whilst the suggestion to make the “Undesirables” homeless is bound to raise the ire of some, and in itself seems like a cruel and heartless act, is it any less heartless to expect other tenants to tolerate the behaviour and to also expect those who are currently homeless to remain on a waiting list whilst the undesirables remain in place?

When worded as “If you don’t look after your toys and play nicely, then they will be given to someone who will actually appreciate them” it seems a perfectly reasonable proposition.

If we make them homeless, someone else gets a home. Society itself is no worse off at all and the example it sets may go a long way to curbing anti-social behaviour of those who are under the impression they can not get evicted, because that would be heartless.

Consequential thinking skills are never developed in those who face no consequences for their behaviour.

miz 2:43 pm 22 Dec 15

Other jurisdictions have consequences for badly behaved tenants. We should too. One important point to add – the government MUST strictly uphold the salt and pepper approach to maintain the community’s support. There have been signs of problematic slippage of this tenet of late which is why people do NOT want large scale public housing developments nearby.

TuggLife 2:07 pm 22 Dec 15

The problem with declaring yourself a NIMBY is that it’s thin on solutions for our broader community – it’s akin to closing your eyes, sticking your hands over your ears and refusing to acknowledge the broader issue.

What’s the alternative? Homelessness? The argument for not tossing “misbehaving” public housing residents into the street isn’t “the children” as you say, it’s that access to safe and secure housing is one of the most basic human rights. Public housing tenants have to live somewhere, and it’s undeniably better for the community, and for these individuals, that they’re not stuck all together in a single estate, which just compounds problems they face. What do you think happens if you turn a “misbehaving” public housing tenant on the street?

One of the statements made by an objector in Nicholls earlier this year said that they feared public housing because it would bring “drug addicts, paedophiles and other people with mental disabilities” into their community. There are already “drug addicts, paedophiles and other people with mental disabilities” living in your community, even without public housing.

So what’s the real issue? That there’s hurt feelings in the community from a lack of consultation? That there’s a concern that Housing ACT is ineffective in reducing crime and anti-social behaviours in public housing? That there’s a lack of effective drug and alcohol treatment strategies in the ACT? That there isn’t enough support for people with a mental illness in our community? That there’s a problem with domestic violence (and violence in general) in our community? That some people have been dealt a crap hand in life, and haven’t pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps?

I also live in the suburban ACT, and “saved and slaved to establish a home in pleasant law-abiding surrounds”. I value the diversity of my neighbourhood, would welcome more and think that proposing to strip your fellow humans of the dignity that comes with secure, habitable and accessible housing is a low act and no solution to any of the above issues. You don’t speak for me.

tooltime 12:55 pm 22 Dec 15

Jester noir,

Are you suggesting they be allowed to trash properties continually without any fear of loss, destroy the ambience/amenity/property value of an area with their kids, animals and front yard scrap metal depots?

What’s your suggestion?

JesterNoir 10:45 am 22 Dec 15

So you’re suggesting that we make them homeless?

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