28 February 2022

Public housing mum broken-hearted at having to leave home of 33 years

| Ian Bushnell
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New public housing

Housing ACT says tenants like Ann will move to new, modern residences. Photos: Public Housing Renewal Taskforce.

Charnwood public housing tenant Ann received a letter last week that broke her heart.

The 55-year-old disability pensioner was told that after 33 years in the same house, she would have to leave so the site could be sold or redeveloped as part of the ACT Government’s public housing renewal program.

Her situation typifies the challenges many tenants will face and what Housing ACT faces in managing people who may be vulnerable and have special needs.

Her daughter Jessica Buckley, who grew up in the three-bedroom property, says her mother is distraught at the thought of moving out of the neighbourhood.

“It feels like someone has died,” she said.

READ MORE Public housing tenants to be forced to relocate as renewal program steps up

Ann’s life has not been easy. She has cerebral palsy and had to rebuild her life after divorcing a compulsive gambler, raising three children on her own.

She worked for 15 years as a shop assistant, but her deteriorating health forced her to go on to the pension three years ago.

She has been diagnosed with diabetes and finds any change difficult.

Jessica says all her community connections and needs are met in Charnwood, including her local doctor.

Even the neighbours do not want her to leave, she said.

“One has been there more than 33 years and have been like grandparents to us, and the other neighbour has been there for more than 20 years,” Jessica said.

It’s also a bitter blow considering how much Ann and her family have done to make the property a home and maintain it.

“We sanded back the walls to do a proper job of painting rather than when they’ve just slapped paint over the top of other paints that would constantly flake and peel,” Jessica said.

“There was no carpet underlay so we ripped up the carpet and had proper carpet installed.

“The yard was overgrown with ivy, so we ripped all that out and tried to level the yard. If we saw anything we could do to improve it, we did it.”

The home has been a source of stability for not just Ann but also her children and grandchildren.

Jessica, 34, moved out at 18 when she had her daughter, but moved back in at 23, only leaving three years ago. Her two brothers also have children.

“I visit a couple of times week. My mum still looks after the grandkids regularly,” Jessica said.

“It’s nice to have that backyard to run around and play in.”

New public housing stock

Another example of new public housing.

Jessica acknowledges that her mother sometimes finds the house hard to manage because of her cerebral palsy but always reaches out to friends and family.

Leaving her community will be tough, but the family is beginning to come to terms with the situation, admitting fighting to stay will be hard.

“We’ve been talking to people whose parents have been through the same situation and have had a positive outcome,” Jessica said.

“If she has to move, she wants to stay in Charnwood,” Jessica said.

“It’s going to be very challenging trying to find something that suits her needs.”

Jessica says that if it is outside their control, it may be best not to hold on and be overwhelmed but work towards the best possible outcome and a smooth transition.

There is also the outside chance of being able to buy the property, but the family won’t know anything until they speak to a relocation officer.

READ ALSO The story of Environa: the suburb that never made it

Housing ACT began delivering letters giving notice of relocation on 21 February but insists eviction will be the last resort. It will also offer support and legal advice through community organisations.

“Housing ACT is committed to supporting tenants before, during and after their move,” a government spokesperson said.

“We work closely with tenants, their support networks and community service providers, as part of an extensive engagement process, to relocate tenants to alternative housing.

“The relocation of tenants includes identifying individual support needs, finding the right home, help with moving, and ensuring access to any supports needed after moving.”

The older properties will be sold to generate funds for reinvestment or redeveloped to provide modern, energy-efficient homes.

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Not fair

Alphonse Knight9:39 am 03 Mar 22

All of you whinging are “Karens”. Be grateful you have health, education, job and a place to live. She is emotional because 33 years was in that that house with her community helping her out. I mean isn’t it normal for a person who has spent that long in a place feel some kind of emotions? Last time I read cerebral palsy is not self inflicted you are born with it so show a bit of compassion, love and support. Be happy that she is getting a place that will be better for her and wish her the best. She is disabled and she worked for 15 years and also raising 3 kids and in my book that is a tough lady . I am just glad she getting a better place and I wish her best of luck and health. Walk a mile in her shoes before you judge her.

Aaron and Laura Kambanei11:00 pm 02 Mar 22

She has a disability and all her memories are in that house that is why she is upset!! what happened to the Canberra!! show some compassion wow most of you are so quick to judge , you don’t live her life or her struggles..
most of you sound like children bickering .. be compassionate !!
I hope the lady gets located to a nice house and suburb that is convenient for her needs!!

That is exactly the intention.

Australia has its worse homeless epidemic at the moment. Fantastic and overly junked up politicians and mayors are currently offering relocation and housing to Ukrainian people fleeing there country but with what we ask? Isn’t there nil or minimal housing available to house our own Aussie’s But all of a sudden we have a side hustle of available properties for Ukrainians. Why would we accommodate this. This lady has raised 3 children successfully now it is time to move on. I think the next pandemic will be ‘stupidity, watch out for it as I think it is extremely contagious. Move this lady to a one bedroom unit wherever possible, no choice of suburb, she still gets a roof over her head and expected pension. Australians need to stop this heart bleeding philosophy that you are entitled too when you are clearly not. Mum wants to stay in the suburb ‘sorry love but due to 33 years of property rises this is not viable’. How about the family down the road living out of a car waiting on a exhorbant and never ending list of doing it hard list awaiting the chance to give there children a home. How about the battered mother of 3 kids trying to escape an abusive husband but can’t as no houses available to accommodate her escape. This article is full of fart. Let’s really talk about the homeless crisis nationally and not just the ACT. What about the thousands that are tonight sitting on the bonnet of there car (home) eating two minute noodles awaiting anxiously from there case worker to see if they have elevated on the list in social housing. Let’s NOT start throwing out media typos from state leaders willing to relocate ukranians into our country that can’t even accommodate our own

Mike of Canberra10:48 pm 01 Mar 22

It’s not hard to see why this lady has attracted a lot of sympathy and support from RiotAct followers. At the same time, what this article highlights is that the current highly ideological ACT Government (whose party room quite possibly begins each sitting day singing the Internationale) makes great play of its alleged social justice credentials while being anything but compassionate in its actions. Why else would Housing ACT leave ill-equipped public housing tenants to wallow in their self-made mess and misery, supposedly on social justice grounds, while ignoring the plight of this unfortunate woman? The real moral from this story, however, is that this is a sham government, one with no idea of how to manage money and thus that hurts people while coming to grips with the consequences of its own ineptitude and mismanagement. An even stronger message is that no one should ever rely on this ACT Government for anything. They’re all talk and no action. Unfortunately, this lady has learnt that lesson the hard way.

Gosh!! You seem to have inside knowledge of this issue, such as seeing the correspondence from ACT housing as what they said and the tone, etc.
BTW, my laptop had never before overheated or the keyboard been covered in froth. I think it was exhibiting the tone of your letter.
(And you do know that Andrew Barr has hammers and sickles printed all over his underwear. Really truly!!)

This is common across Australia and has been for decades. Children grow up and leave home, leaving one or two parents in a 3 bedroom house. They then downsize into other public housing while a family are moved off the waiting list into the house. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s fair. It happened to my mother: after 20 years in a 3 bedroom home, she moved into a spanking new much-more-managable one bedroom unit.

Aaron and Laura Kambanei3:44 pm 01 Mar 22

So sad people having a go she spent a lot of her life in that house anyone in that situation would be sad .. what are you jealous of her, she is disabled and still managed to work for 15 years and raise a family try having cerebral palsy or a disability and manage basic day to day life challenges .. it not easy I bet!

John Gregory Free2:47 pm 01 Mar 22

I am almost angry. 33 privileged years of subsidised rent.
A new property being made ready but perhaps in a different suburb
One person in such a home.

The more people get the more they moan.

Linda Seaniger2:04 pm 01 Mar 22

I’m sorry but public housing needs to be managed properly. Public tenants in most instances have it better than people who rent privately they are often there for decades and not moved on once their children leave home. Private tenants often move every 12 months and if they stay in a place more than five years it’s absolutely amazing. Remember Other public tenants with families are going without yard and a bedroom for their children because elderly people are left in three-bedroom homes. Also if public tenants don’t look after housing they should be evicted it’s the only way to encourage them to look after their accommodation and to be respectful of other neighbours. Also if they commit a crime and go to jail then the public house accommodation should be reallocated to some other needy family and not left idle. Fairness for all.. Our tax dollars used effectively and the most needy receive accommodation the best suits their needs at that stage in life.

ChrisinTurner1:39 pm 01 Mar 22

That home is not 33 years old. Can we believe the rest of the story?

Did you read the headline, see a picture and assume that the house in the picture was the one from the headline? Instead of reading the caption that clearly states new modern residences.

Remember it’s better to look quite and stupid then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Regardless how you look at this story you should feel compassion. The family aren’t saying they wont accommodate the requested change. What the family is endeavouring to highlight is how this poor woman is feeling about having to give up her home and the support network she gets via her neighbours. How about we turn the disgruntled opinions we have regarding public housing availability towards the elected officials that make decisions about how to expend the funds they get from all of us. If we were to crunch the numbers regarding the overall total cost of the light rail we would probably find that we could of built over a 1000 homes and funded countless new hospital beds. I’m sure someone who supports the light rail from one of the suburbs it services will probably reply with support for the most expensive jewel in the Canberra crown. Let us not forget we have a bus network with assets worth countless millions travelling around being under utilised. Needless to say this poor woman like the rest of us, is a victim of bad public spending decisions which are driven by a parliamentary agreement that has been in place for way to long. I personally hope this public housing tenant ends up finding a happy home where she again feel safe and comfortable.

Regardless of how much compassion you feel for this woman, making the public housing sector more efficient would always be a good idea.

And that’s without even considering how much compassion to others stuck on the housing waiting list whilst single people live in public housing that could fit entire families.

Government funds are not limitless and we need decisions that will best help the most amount of people. This decision is clearly going to benefit more people overall.

Hi, I’m not actually disputing the rationale behind the decision. My reference to compassion is in relation to people’s emotive response to this particular ladies article. I fully appreciate that there is not a never ending bucket of money and believe that the relevant Government of the day should make fiscally responsible decisions that ultimately benefit all of the constituents of the ACT. The Parliamentary Agreement does make reference to the Governments aim to increase the housing stock level (attached for reference). https://www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/1654077/Parliamentary-Agreement-for-the-10th-Legislative-Assembly.pdf
It’s also worth noting that the Total Facilities Management (TFM) contract that ACT Housing administers is one of the largest contracts in place within the Territory. A question might actually be how long it is since the responsible Directorate have gone to market to benchmark the costs associated with the ongoing housing maintenance requirement. What I am suggesting is that there are many discrete elements that should not be viewed in isolation when talking about what can logically be done to improve the housing situation for those people who need it. Below I have also attached a link that will take people through to the ACT Government’s information related to their Affordable Housing Scheme as it is quite interesting.
I think it would be far easier for all of us who are interested in the affordable housing subject if we could see how all of the various programmes of work actually intersect.

Maybe the headline would be better if it said “Public Housing Mum heartbroken that her choices would exclude others from receiving public housing”.

As a plumber I visit a lot of these public homes, large block, great suburb, good house – only ONE occupant. There would be hundreds of them in the ACT, all living alone in these million dollar homes.

She has had an amazing 33 years and has so much to be grateful for!

I appreciate the change will come as a shock HOWEVER for as long as Canberra has record numbers of homeless people, single mothers on 2 year wait-lists, disabled people living in garages, abuse victims living with their partners as they have no alternative… I can not support public homes that accommodate only one person, not matter how long they have been there.

It makes good sense to sell all of these homes and put the funds towards fairer public housing for all.

Wayne Bradley Capper12:21 pm 01 Mar 22

I hear you mate. As a single dad who is trying to negotiate a house for me and my children this lack of suitable properties is horrific. We were spotlighted here on the RiotAct just last year as I was homeless with my kids and no service in the ACT could help us.i always tented privately up until losing my job at the start if Covid now we are still battling to het housing. I know of many single people in 3-4 bedroom homes that their kids have all grown up and left. There needs to be a system that rehoused these people in suitable smaller properties so that stick is available to families that need it now

Wayne you are doing a great job mate, I have no doubt that it’s horrific for you.

Single dads have it especially tough, you are almost reverse discriminated against here as men aren’t generally primary caregivers, and most of our Gov agencies just aren’t set up to help men.

Your kids one day will thank you for the love and care that you are giving them.

I’d say come and stay here but I’ve still got my sister and her drop-kick boyfriend living on the couch. I hope these changes mean more homes for great Dads such as yourself.

It’s not her home, it belongs to the government. Beggars can’t be choosers. Especially when it means the prospect of more public housing, which is scant in ACT with people on waiting lists long-term. On the other hand, it shows a failure in the government providing an adequate amount of public housing.

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