13 May 2005

Public Housing - for people who need it

| Indi
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I’d heard on the wireless this morning that the Greens MLA from the ACT Parliament is residing in public housing. Isn’t this a bit ‘rich’ coming from someone proclaiming to stand up for the ‘battler’, yet occupying a home that could be given to someone in real need.

Sounds like a failed government policy….the Chief Minister doesn’t really sound interested in accommodating people with real housing needs, and by the way, it’s ok for someone earning good money (eg. parliamentarian) to remain in public housing for life!

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the_chosen_one10:55 am 11 Mar 11

johnboy said :

Nick, the Chifley model depressed any investment that wasn’t government driven.

We can do better without it.

Emergency housing for those in emergencies I say

I am sure a big chunk of Canberrans are in need of “emergency” housing. In fact, my wife and I are spending around 35% of our income on rent and we’re probably more “secure” than most.

This arrangement, however, is very virulent as I am studying to become a doctor, and thinking of raising a family is downright prohibitive. It sort of takes us to that Australian disaster called the rapidly aging population due to abysmal TFR, which is going to result into us literally burying old folks alive due to uncontrollable costs. I think we’re wasting our time with this crap and ought to focus on implementing real mechanisms to reduce housing scarcity.

Substantially increase the density, and increase the stock of affordable housing. Canberra isn’t Mumbai, which interestingly has plenty of solutions available to eliminate housing scarcity. This crap wouldn’t be a reality for so many if the government wasn’t conspiring with landowners. Besides, in much of Europe, it isn’t unusual for professionals to live in public housing. It’s actually a lot better if public housing had a mixture of different incomes rather than being low-income ghettos.

Yes it did crowd-out private investment.

The Chifley model was also aimed at getting people into public housing only until they had saved enough to buy their own place. Many workers ended up purchasing their public housing properties when they retired.

Nick, the Chifley model depressed any investment that wasn’t government driven.

We can do better without it.

Emergency housing for those in emergencies I say

Whoa! The reason we are discussing Deb Foskey’s supposed ethical dilemma is because in Australia today there are 100,000 homeless people and an acute shortage of affordable housing.

This is not of Deb’s doing, so why should she lose her housing when her circumstances improve, whereas I (and you) do not? We are all paying market value for our homes and depend on them to underpin our sanity. Deb is more directly subsidising public housing than us.

This hysteria has emerged before – do you remember Irena Dunne? NDP Senator in public housing? Not if the ideological zealouts in the then NSW Liberal government had anything to do with it. She too was vilified and hounded out of her home and the following twenty years of public policy has consistently reduced investment in public housing. There is now a greater crisis of unmet need and another easy target to vilify.

A less personalised look at the issues facing public housing might begin with the Chifleyan dream of secure affordable housing for all. Cheifley offered a cost-rental system that was designed to house a significant proportion of the population and to become independent of government subsidy in a 30-40 year timescale.

This model works. This is evident in the Australian experience up to the 1970’s, when selling off public housing at uneconomic prices became a policy option.

Our consideration needs also to include the debates in the fifties and sixties which stressed the need to support home ownership (almost to any cost) as a bulwark against communism. Politicians of the day extolled the virtue of giving everyone a stake in the country and capitalism by selling them a bit of (Aboriginal)land, a dream and a debt.

While the Whitlam years saw support for public housing and the cold war rhetoric has toned down, public policy itself has been the worst enemy of public housing.

At every opportunity, governments have sold off housing rather than let their systems become self-sustaining, eligibility criteria are tightened, funding is reduced and an ever-decreasing resource is doled out under increasingly suspicious and resentful circumstances.

A welfare industry is maintained, we now have some of the world’s largest banks, a docile working class and an under-class too busy filling in application forms to hold a revolution. It works.

We can now happily spend three times as much on negative gearing tax breaks than we do on public housing and nobody complains.

Throughout the current federal government’s term there has been less money for public and emergency housing each year, to the point that most state housing authorities are cannibalising there own stock in deals with the private sector becasue they can’t afford to keep on as they are. NSW Department of Housing, for instance, is losing over five million dollars per week, after all the funding, rents and loans are counted.

So settle back, light a cigar, swig deeply on your brandy and thank your God that our public subsidies are worked out quietly by the accountant. See you at the auctions.

Bilby, did they mention it takes over 12 months to get a house even if you’re on the priority list. All the while they guarantee tenure?

Draw your own conclusions but the mission statement last I saw it made no mention of need or emergency.

Providing affordable housing is unrelated to either of those issues.

ACT public housing has an income test, along with other criteria. It is intended to provide “affordable” housing, ie. for low income people, and priority is given to urgent cases (check their website.) To argue that Deb Foskey is not at fault because there is no “emergency housing” in the ACT is not the point. I suspect her income is now well above the level where she qualifies for public housing. She’s only allowed to stay because she’s already in it, and she’s keeping someone who can’t afford private housing from affordable accommodation.

Canberra_unsung_hero11:44 pm 15 May 05

Nevertheless, those miserable Gits in London Circuit need a good shake-up …. including the Opposition !

There’s no multi billions $ operation that can afford to start from scratch.

nice idea but this one isn’t going to be an easy ride.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart10:49 pm 15 May 05

The gate is probably closed, but scale the fence and push on the back door of the bus, they should spring open and set off a bell, hit a couple buttons and things should be back to normal. (Note: I have never tried this, and have no intention of doing so, and if you get caught, it isn’t my fault)

No, ACT Housing doesn’t need re-alignment, it needs to be rebuilt. They have perfected a system of area manager rotation so that people can complain to the area manager for a while, the manager moves elsewhere, and the tenant has to start all over again. ACT Housing has many problems, and I think the only way to fix it is to start from scratch. Don’t get me started about housing maintenance…



Are the doors open though?

Seepi – Anyone who takes 10 minutes to talk to any Housing (this week’s tendy re-branding of the body eludes me) employee realises the ACT does not have an emergency housing service.

We’ve got a rationed low-cost housing service which does not discriminate on the basis of need.

It was established to attract people to come and live here, not provide or destitute in a city so young it didn’t have any destitute.

Does it need to be re-focussed?


But to criticize either foskey or Housing before that re-alignment is done is not fair.

It’s a political question, it needs a political answer, and it’s a tragedy that 15 years of local politicians, from both sides, have not even tried to address it.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart6:42 pm 15 May 05

“Where are the busses to sleep in for those who don’t have cars?”–johnboy
Tuggeranong depot and Belconnen depot!


I never thought I’d say this – but it sounds like Jaqui Burke is onto something – they need to have a good look at their waiting lists…..

And I thought this government was committed to public transport.

Where are the busses to sleep in for those who don’t have cars?

Canberra_unsung_hero4:24 pm 15 May 05

LurkerGal said —

it shits me that people who can afford normal housing are the reason I was told that my daughter and I would have to sleep in my car for 12 months.

Hmmmmm…….that certainly would give you the shits… especially if you had to sleep in your car for that long !

exhorbitant. sorry.

And yet when I was evicted from my place because the owners wanted to move in, and had left my job for health reasons and had a child,I was told I would have a MINIMUM 12 month wait for accommodation. I could be put up in a womens’ refuge for 2 nights, and then I was on my own. I asked if I would have to sleep in my car, and was told by my case officer “well that’s what many people do”.

I was lucky, because despite being told by a medical specialist that working could kill me, or at the very least put me back in hospital (I have no family here, and would have been completely screwed, as where would my child go???), I ignored them and found a temporary job. Bearing in mind that I had was highly skilled and therefore COULD get a job. many can’t.

I’m still alive, and now on a very good income in permanent work, and paying market rent. However, it shits me that people who can afford normal housing are the reason I was told that my daughter and I would have to sleep in my car for 12 months.

Oh, and also, after the 12 months, I was told I could now have a house. Despite my income being above $50k. I damn my honesty every day the exhorbinat amount of rent money comes out of my bank account, but that’s just the way I am. I didn’t want to be responsible for someone else who couldn’t get out of the position I had previously been in.

Jacqui Burke has put out a silly media release in which she too mistakenly claims ACT Housing is intended to provide housing to the needy.

But she’s getting close and might, by the next election, be able to actually make an issue of it.

ACT Housing assets are measured with a B for Billion, sorting out what the hell all that money is supposed to be acheiving would be a VERY GOOD THING.

Deb Foskey is, within her own terms of reference, behaving entirely ethically.

Many people on the left (including former prime minister Ben Chifley) regard private home ownership as a bad thing. At no point in ACT Housing’s philosophy is it devoted to low income housing.

You, and I, might argue that maybe it should be focussed in this way, but it is no fault of Deb Foskey’s that it is not.

Personally I think that if ACT housing is reliant on renting out 20% of its stock at market rates it is not being financed properly.

A better outcome would be achieved by inviting those on “market rents” to take out a mortgage and buy the place (on attractive terms) or they can move out into the “real” market and free space for people in genuine need.

That’s my view.

But to be fair to Deb Foskey she is being consistent with her own ethical framework.

I wouldn’t vote for her on that basis, but that’s another matter.

Canberra_unsung_hero8:27 pm 13 May 05

I gots my own house (and I don’t have to share it with anyone ).

It may be true that the govt need this money, but it doensn’t make it right.
I thought people could stay once they got an income, in case they lost it again. Someone with a 3 year solid income should have to move out, so that families living out of cars etc that we read about can move in.

as a former employee of housing ACT i could probably reveal all sorts of goings on inside the machine. in this case however i’ll limit my comment to saying that if it weren’t for the 19% of public housing tenants (of which this mla would appear to be one) then the entire system would collapse from lack of funding. Its the full paying tenants that keep the rest afloat.

Housing charge a market rent for every house they own. Some of them are ridiculously high (Northbourne Flats at $260) for the flea pits they are.
They only become cheap when you bring a rebate into play. MLA would not be eligibile for a rebate, ergo they pay full market rent, ergo gummint coffers fill more than they otherwise would with the $30 a week pensioners and their rebated rent.

Just out of interest (and so that this argument makes a bit more sense) – what is the actual annual salary of an MLA? I’m guessing it is substantial, hence the weirdness of them living in public housing, but since I don’t actually know, I can’t be entirely sure.

I vaguely remember that local councillor wages (and that’s really what the Legislative assembly is – a jumped-up local council) aren’t particularly large at all, hence why people doing such jobs tend to continue doing other buisinesses on the side (and incidentally, leading to a fair chunk of local government conflict of interest and corruption).

It doesn’t appear that an MLA living in public housing would constitute breaking the rules.

But from an ethical perspective, how could you continue to reside in a home that is really meant to be there for another family who simply cannot afford any other housing option?

A socailist acting like a capitalist when he makes profit on a socialist policy.


Thats more political sensibility in one sentence than I’ve expressed in my entire life. Ewwww!

did anyone else hear about this today? or are we just propagating rumours? (not that that is necessarily bad, I heard there was an EKO at work today for instance so have a good weekend)

According to the comrade, one of the reasons they allow it to happen is because they get good rental revenue out of it. I’d like to know if this is really the case – does the gub’t get a higher rental out of people who can afford it (like parliamentarians) than they would have got (for the same house) from a family living on the dole?

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