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Public Housing not an unconditional home for life?

By johnboy - 15 March 2012 120

The Age has the long overdue news that the ACT Government is going to move to turf high income earners out of public housing.

The ACT Government is powerless to force middle-class households out of government homes, despite thousands of families being on the waiting lists.

Instead, housing bureaucrats can only ask tenants on more than $80,000 per year to ”reconsider” their continued presence in public housing.

But Housing Minister Joy Burch is considering legislative changes to send a message that public housing is not an unconditional home for life.

Roslyn Dundas from the ACT Council of Social Services predictably thinks this idea is not so great.

UPDATE 15/03/12 12:00: The Greens are not at all happy about the proposals:

ACT Greens Health spokesperson, Amanda Bresnan MLA, has described the ACT Government’s proposal to take market renters out of public housing as lacking a long-term vision for public housing.

“The Government is proposing an extremely short term solution to Housing ACT’s long waiting list. There also is no detail at all about how they would replace the revenue lost from those paying market rent,” Ms Bresnan said.

“In most of these cases we are probably talking about single, middle aged to older women, with very little superannuation. We need to think about what will happen to them in the long term.

“We also face the situation where if tenants believe they will be evicted once they earn a certain income, they could choose to stay in their home and earn a lower income. This is counterproductive to the aim of giving people stability and the ability to be a contributing member of the community.

“Tenants who can get to the stage of paying market rent in Housing ACT properties are able to subsidise those other tenants on low incomes.

“Evicting market renters will only make the Housing ACT portfolio more unviable. The Government needs to show the cost of replacing this revenue. There was no accounting for this in the Public Housing Asset Management Strategy that was just released late last year.

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Public Housing not an unconditional home for life?
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Thumper 10:32 am 16 Mar 12

Possibly a three strike rule?

Have bad tenants of a contract somewhat like a bond so that there is the threat of eviction?

Of course, one would hope that, having being turfed out, one would see the errors of their ways and attempt to rectify this.

Genie 10:28 am 16 Mar 12

Fender said :

CT has an interesting piece on the subject.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/when-five-kids-isnt-a-crowd-20120315-1v8l6.html
Not sure what I think about it but “quality journalism” is not a word that springs to mind.

This article really gets on my nerves and I have to say what most people are thinking.
This family is crying poor because they have 5 children and are only in a 3 beddy house an earning less than $20k per annum.
Here’s my 2 cents worth –
WHY did you have 5 kids if you can’t afford to support them?
If you’re so broke – go get a fricken job. There are tons of jobs out there ! Almost all of your children go to school. So it’s not like both parents need to be at home caring for them.

The 13 year old “can’t get no work done” because he shares a room with his 2 younger brothers. Ummm I shared a room with my sister until I was a teenager. I got plenty of homework done. It’s called do it in the kitchen or the loungeroom AWAY from the siblings.

You want a bigger house. You got yourself in this situation, did ways to get out of it instead of waiting for the Government to hand you the silver spoon you’re waiting for.

Thumper 10:21 am 16 Mar 12

johnboy said :

Have you thought what happens to the rest of us when the scum are no longer happily stoned on their couch in front of a big TV but are instead hungry, cold and out on our streets?

That does need some thought. If they’re stoned on their couch then fine. Drunk and throwing stuff at neighbours while abusing the hell out of everyone else is simply not fine.

Penalties of some sort? I don’t know.

steveu 10:13 am 16 Mar 12

SnapperJack said :

A first step towards greater equity in public housing would be to take David Eastman’s unit off him.

Didnt they finally do that?

Another argument that you shoudl be a fit and proper person to have taxpayer subsidised housing for the term of your natural life.
(and yes I know David Eastman has that at Hume).

Dont trash the house, dont break the law – or forfeit your entitlement to taxpayer subsidised housing, IMHO

    johnboy 10:18 am 16 Mar 12

    Have you thought what happens to the rest of us when the scum are no longer happily stoned on their couch in front of a big TV but are instead hungry, cold and out on our streets?

EvanJames 10:07 am 16 Mar 12

Thumper said :

And as a society we need to protect and at times nurture the less fortunate so as to give them opportunity in life.

Of course, skanky bogan scum who treat properties like dirt or who are a nightmare for neighbours need to be kicked out until they can appreciate what they are being given.

Yes, and yes.

In the US, they often have issues where a town or city is so expensive, that the workers who do the basic essential work cannot afford to live there (resort towns, Manhatten etc). So they have things like rent-controlled properties, or company-sponsored housing.

If you see the lines of commuters coming in from NSW every day, yes some of them have moved for lifestyle reasons, and many have moved out there so they can afford a home.

The government housing sector needs a good look before the situation where low-paid industries find that no one can afford to work for them. I think we’re hearing the start of this from the retailers actually.

Dilandach 9:42 am 16 Mar 12

miz said :

They are probably only now earning a decent income because they were able to qualify at that time and things got stable.
Second, just because someone is earning OK money now does not mean they are going to be on OK money for the rest of their life. Plenty of people are on contract even in the public service, and ‘kicking them out’ may mean they are back on the list before long. Churn helps no one in the end.

So what, if someone is in the public housing system its best to get them locked in forever ‘just in case’ they might be dropped from a contract or lose their job? No, I don’t buy that BS excuse.

Public housing is supposed to help people get back on their feet, not provide a parachute in case the off chance things go wrong a couple of years down the track. Private renters and home owners deal with the exact same thing, its reality.

Thumper 9:25 am 16 Mar 12

I think I may see this slightly different to others in that yes, high income earners should not be in government houses, however, a house is not just a house. For some people it is a home.

For instance, what about an old lady who has lived in this house all her life. Her children lived there. her husband, now deceased, live there.

It is her home. her complete life’s memories are tied up in this home.

It would seem very unfair to simply kick her out.

Of course, this would only be in a small number of cases and so ACT housing would have to apply some sort of subjective guidelines as to who could stay and who couldn’t. Obviously those with big incomes of massive savings or the ability to buy/ rent in the private market need to be moved on. Of course, the government could charge real market reant, ie, not the subsidised amount that they seem to think is market rent.

Put simply, it’s not black and white.

Having said that, in this day and age, and especially in Canberra, I think we need more government housing simply because we have people struggling to get into the private rental market and when in the private market, really struggle to make ends meet.

And as a society we need to protect and at times nurture the less fortunate so as to give them opportunity in life.

Of course, skanky bogan scum who treat properties like dirt or who are a nightmare for neighbours need to be kicked out until they can appreciate what they are being given.

Fender said :

CT has an interesting piece on the subject.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/when-five-kids-isnt-a-crowd-20120315-1v8l6.html
Not sure what I think about it but “quality journalism” is not a word that springs to mind.

Wow, I actually agree with Alistair Coe.

I think the last paragraph neatly sums up the problem

‘Security of tenure for public housing tenants has caused the Greens public relations problems in the past when one of their former MLAs, Deb Foskey, continued to live in her publicly owned Yarralumla cottage after she was elected to the Assembly, paying $270 a week while on a salary of about $100,000.’

If the ‘or market rates, whichever is less’ aspect was removed and Dr Foskey had been require to pay 25 per cent of her income, she would have been paying more than $200 a week more, which in turn could have been used by ACT Housing to assist people in need.

HenryBG 8:10 am 16 Mar 12

miz said :

Almost an entire generation of ordinary working people who previously would have been eligible for public housing are now struggling in private rental with no way out. [As a housing tenant, I understand this – I had to move 7 times in 10 years in private rental (owners wanting to sell, move back in, six months with no shower, etc) and never, ever want to go there again. Didn’t care when I was child free, but no one should have to do that with school age kids.]

Oh, gee, you had to move house, you poor thing.

Meanwhile, a single mother fleeing an abusive husband has nowhere to live because well-off people like you are clogging up the public housing system. It’s an outrage. Stop sponging and take responsibility for your life.

Fender 6:59 am 16 Mar 12

CT has an interesting piece on the subject.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/when-five-kids-isnt-a-crowd-20120315-1v8l6.html
Not sure what I think about it but “quality journalism” is not a word that springs to mind.

Grrrr 1:20 am 16 Mar 12

miz said :

I would like someone to tell me how much a debt-free single income household of four needs to be earning in order to have a bank agree to lend them the money (say, 95 per cent) to buy a basic three bedroom house in Canberra and be able to pay for rates etc.

Last time I checked, the bank required repayments to be no more than ~50% of income. So, assuming a fairly-cheap three bedroom house is now $450k (yes, I know you can get one a bit cheaper in Charnie or Banks), which means repayments of around $33k. So, the bank could approve the loan with an income under $70k.

However, you said a single-income family of four. So, they will take into account the extra expenses of dependants and other things (also, size of credit card limits etc.) In this case, in income approaching $100k will be required.

The banks have online calculators you can use to figure this out: http://nab-calculator.realestate.com.au/

zippyzippy 11:52 pm 15 Mar 12

Miz, thanks for giving this thoughtful comment. You make some really good points. it’s quite complicated. It’s not fair to call those people parasites and cry for them to be kicked out.

miz 11:19 pm 15 Mar 12

It is simplistic to equate the numbers of ‘market rent’ payers in govt housing and the number of people on the waiting list. First, all people in public housing qualified to enter it. It is not their fault the system has become so ‘targeted’. They are probably only now earning a decent income because they were able to qualify at that time and things got stable.
Second, just because someone is earning OK money now does not mean they are going to be on OK money for the rest of their life. Plenty of people are on contract even in the public service, and ‘kicking them out’ may mean they are back on the list before long. Churn helps no one in the end.
Third, the tenants are not to blame for this problem. The two actual problems are: (a) the fact that there is just not enough public housing, and (b) the eligibility criteria has narrowed far to far.
These may seem incompatible, but actually they are both symptoms of the same policy – the dictates of the former Howard Govt to only provide tied grants to States and Territories (the housing agreement). This foolish policy started at the height of the economic rationalist fad – far less money was provided to S & Ts, and the housing agreement dictated that States and Territories must limit eligibility to welfare recipients. This did not, and still does not, make good policy, and has the effect of creating ghettos instead of decent suburbs (particularly noticeable in other States where there are large public housing clusters). Almost an entire generation of ordinary working people who previously would have been eligible for public housing are now struggling in private rental with no way out. [As a housing tenant, I understand this – I had to move 7 times in 10 years in private rental (owners wanting to sell, move back in, six months with no shower, etc) and never, ever want to go there again. Didn’t care when I was child free, but no one should have to do that with school age kids.]
OK, so we have 12-15 years of public housing supply and waiting lists to catch up on. But it is unfair to blame current public housing tenants, regardless of how much rent they pay, for this situation.
It is also worth noting that public housing tenants are similar to private rental tenants in that they can’t afford to buy a home unless a scheme such as the former Housing Trust Loan scheme is reinstated. So, it’s lose, lose.
Finally, I would like someone to tell me how much a debt-free single income household of four needs to be earning in order to have a bank agree to lend them the money (say, 95 per cent) to buy a basic three bedroom house in Canberra and be able to pay for rates etc. That would be more like the starting point at which you could perhaps consider asking people to relocate, bearing in mind the transience of some households (eg ACT Housing count teenagers’ incomes in their totals), and the fact that lots of people have considerable debts. I strongly suspect the amount needed would be more than people think.

Jamie Wheeler 10:18 pm 15 Mar 12

Another major issue is ACT Housing allowing people to occupy large properties without being eligible. I personally know a guy living all by himself in a three bedroom house in Weston Creek after a family seperation brought about by his drug addiction and violence. After two years he’s still bonging on and drinking all day while his dogs occupy the property. He has a strong sense of entitlement and refuses to move to single person accomodation. Rather than evicting him he easily works the system and continues to live it up in style courtesy of the public while needy families on low incomes go without! Get tough on these bludgers AS WELL AS people on middle incomes who can afford private housing.

GardeningGirl 8:54 pm 15 Mar 12

marcothepolopony said :

Recently I have noticed the departure of an elderly lady who had raised her children in her three bedroom government home over the past 35 years.
Her garden was immaculate and well established; she took much pride in her little home. But she lived there alone these days, ‘time to go Mrs’.

Over the past months since the new tenant moved in the house and yard have fallen into disrepair, with overflowing bins, garbage bags all over the front “lawn”, papers and other rubbish just about everywhere you can see.
Naturally with the rain the ‘lawn’ has become an eyesore, not mown in months by the looks.

So for the neighbours of this govie who do take pride, it must have been a shock to get a new tenant with no respect for their lovely new government home. I feel for the neighbours and those, like me, who must pass by every day. It’s a mess.

That’s so sad for a number of reasons.
A block from that era would be a reasonable size. I hate to suggest it but dual occupancy? I hate the thought of the loss of an “immaculate and well established” garden but realistically not every tenant wants outdoor space for anything beyond somewhere to park the cars and let the kids run around. So building two new houses to provide accommodation for two families on the waiting list might make more sense than refurbishing an old not energy efficient house to provide a home for one family and their associated rubbish. The potential downside is having twice as much problems on the property, but the behaviour of some tenants is an issue that needs addressing anyway separate to the issue of a shortage of housing. Perhaps tenants who have shown themselves to be responsible should get first pick of newly built homes and tenants who haven’t behaved responsibly should be downgraded to smaller and older properties and pay a fee for additional inspections and the services of a mowing company until they figure out how to treat what society provides for them properly.

HenryBG 7:24 pm 15 Mar 12

Visitor01Q said :

I’m not for kicking them out.

But I do think they should change the legislation so that public housing tennants pay 25% of their income in rent.

Right now, it’s 25% to ‘market value’, but if these people enjoy reduced rent when their income is low, then they can top up the rent when their income is high. Lets see how many stay when their rent is 25% of $180,000 !

Awesome idea. The bludgers would move out quick smart.

Which Greens MLA spent years in her Yarralumla guvvie House despite being on a very good earner as an MLA? Is she still in it?
How did she justify selfishly denying a battered single mother a place in guvvie housing?

Watson 6:50 pm 15 Mar 12

The $80,000 figure does not refer to the eligibility limit. Which is actually half that for a family of 2 (doesn’t specify adults or parent/child).

From http://www.dhcs.act.gov.au/hcs/social_housing/eligibility_for_public_housing
“As from 23 February 2012 the income barriers applying to rental housing assistance are as follows:

Single Applicant – $620 gross per week
Family of two persons and joint tenancies – $775 gross per week
Family of three or more persons – $775 plus $103 each for the third, fourth,fifth person etc.”

So you’d have to have about 9 kids to be eligible on a $80,000 annual wage.

Visitor01Q 6:35 pm 15 Mar 12

I’m not for kicking them out. But I do think they should change the legislation so that public housing tennants pay 25% of their income in rent. Right now, it’s 25% to ‘market value’, but if these people enjoy reduced rent when their income is low, then they can top up the rent when their income is high. Lets see how many stay when their rent is 25% of $180,000 !

HenryBG 6:28 pm 15 Mar 12

JazzyJess said :

Just out of curiosity, at what point does one qualify for public housing? I rent in the private market and earn less than $80,000 but it has never occurred to me that I could or should apply for public housing.

This is the real issue: normal people like Jess take responsibility for their lives. Others, supported by the Greens, want the government to spoon-feed them and wipe their bottom afterwards.

The Greens believe in a massively interventionist state – it’s no co-incidence that discredited ex-communists are trying to re-invent themselves by hijacking the Greens, who used to be a party dedicated to *conservation*, not radicalism.

Ian 6:04 pm 15 Mar 12

Darkfalz said :

poetix said :

I can’t believe that someone with a household income of $183,000 is in public housing, according to the article.

Anyone on a decent income who holds on to public housing should be ashamed of themselves, given there are really desperate people in our community.

You do realise that someone at that income is obviously paying market rate rent? They’re not getting cheap housing, maybe they just don’t want to move because they like the place and have friends around.

I ended up paying $320 pw in my 1 bedroom unit during my brief stint in public housing – surrounded by lowlifes paying $50 pw of their Centrelink. When you earn enough, it’s not subsidised any more.

Even so you are tieing up several hundred thousand worth of capital which could be used to house someone more needy. I doubt the full opportunity cost is covered by the market rental.

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