16 December 2005

Use of vacant public housing properties

| Jacqui Burke MLA
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I note with interest that there is still on-going debate regarding public housing. I am pleased that Riot Act contributors continue to follow and energetically add to the debate.

I have recently issued a media release to canvass the use of vacant public housing units particularly at multi unit complex sites (such as Fraser Court, Kanangra Court, Currong & Hartigan Gardens) to assist in relieving the pressure on the crisis accommodation sector, in the short term.

I would be interested to hear from you regarding this aspect of using vacated properties in the short term that are awaiting refurbishment or redevelopment.

On another note……I could have sworn I saw ‘Johnboy’ in the Public Gallery of the Legislative Assembly this week taking a keen interest in local politics (or not??). If not John you have a twin out there………

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I agree, as I have on numerous occasions stated, it is my belief that public housing has been provided out of our genuine social concern that people should at a minimum have a roof over their heads.

I also believe that because it has been provided out of our social concience, we reserve the right to disallow or discontinue that priviledge that we are providing upon any funny business occurring.

I continue to fail to understand why we are so complacent regarding public housing. It has been provided at our expense, and is provided to people in housing distress, and is a short term solution.

If people want to play funny business, watch them whinge from a tent, at the bottom of the list.

Perhaps this is because so many of those said people in housing assistance are those members of the general public who are so fragile that it is remarkable they have shown up to work fully clothed, fed, watered, showered and shaven, yet seem to be ok with ranting about how hard done by they are to the nearest Naomi or Ray, all the while glorifying how much they look like the aussie battler when it could be no farther from the truth.

The inclusion of four simple words in the contract would fix this entire situation; “subject to annual review”.

Thanks seepi – I didn’t know there was a specific timeframe involved. Although it worries me that at any one time there may be so many houses sitting idle while people are effecetivley homeless. Three months is too long for out resources to go untouched and unused. If people vacate a property for more than a month without informing ACT housing, they should lose their spot and it should be allocated to the next on the list.

Ms Burke, thanks again for taking the time to answer a couple questions relating to subjects often discussed at RA.

Yes – I haven’t heard a single person support either the arboretum or the busway. I actually think the busway is Simon Corbell’s red herring that he drags out to occupy the media whenever he is about to pass some dodgy land deal.

To answer a question above, ACT housing properties are left alone for 3 months after being reported as empty, in case the tenants return.

Jacqui Burke MLA5:29 pm 19 Dec 05

Considering the current deficit budgetary position of the Stanhope government, simply put it is a matter of prioritisation of funding allocation from revenue sourced.

This would change during each budgetary process. Based on funding priorities, expenditure would be allocated to address the priorities of the government.

From a personal perspective, as they are within my portfolio responsibilities, I see housing, along with disability and community services, as clear budgetary priorities. These are essential services that any government should maintain.

This requires a fair proportion of financial responsibility in order to fund these essential services adequately and to continue to make inroads into addressing demand.

To bolster this point further, government’s should not take commitments to an election (2004 as an example) that could not be given priority.

In the lean fiscal years that are to come during the rest of this electoral cycle the ALP’s commitment of $30 million capital injection into social housing for three years springs to mind.

Although it is desirable for any government of the day to maintain flexibility in determining its spending priorities, drawing funds from across all revenue sources and not committing certain revenue streams to specific portfolio-related expenditure, there must be some scope to make firm commitments to funding essential services in preference to grandiose projects such the Arboretum or a Busway.

Many thanks Ms Burke – I appreciate the time you have taken preparing your response. I think the crux of your response is acknowledging that currently the AFP have a resourcing issue; thus are finding it difficult to clean up some fo these problem areas; and the fact that ACT housing seemd to be unable to keep tabs on what is happening in their tenancies. More regular reviews and inspections of properties (albeit external inspections), would be terrific way to start the ball rolling.

Finally I would like to ask your opinion on the ‘greater commitment’ you have mentioned: If you think there is and will continue to be a funding issue for ACT housing, where would you suggest the ACT source the increased revenue required to offset this?

Hear hear.

Jacqui Burke MLA3:46 pm 19 Dec 05

In response to comments so far:

‘Ms Burke, could you please tell us what the ACT needs to do in order to bring our housing system up to par – and how would you implement the necessary changes? Finally – is there any feasible way we can ‘clean up’ these tenancies so that the occurrence of assault, vandalism and drug related crime is reduced?’

Firstly, the policing matter in relation to unlawful activity is something that is being addressed, at some level by ACT policing. However, ACT Policing could obviously be resourced further to conduct more ‘Operations’ targeting concentrated incidences of property crime, assault and drug-related crime. I am mindful that see-saw effect can occur when the police are forced to increase their response to one area of crime which can take resources away from other areas of community policing.

To the credit of government, in some instances, there has been a real improvement in the environs of multi-unit complexes. (I draw your attention to the Liberals approach to this back in 2003 – http://www.canberraliberals.org.au/default.cfm?action=news_detail&ID=2233

An example where some positive results have been achieved through tenant participation and increased vigilance is Gowrie Court in Narrabundah. Of course there are some other problem sites, usually with a higher concentration of residents who may require more specialist services, which of course becomes more resource intensive and places further pressure on the Housing Department.

I support any moves to rejuvenate and/or redevelop some of the older large multi-unit complex sites, as the ageing stock and amenities at these sites no longer match tenant need or current building standards.

Any government of the day will have to comply with obligations under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. One major tenet of the Agreement is the requirement to re-invest any income from sales/redevelopment back into the public housing sector.

Accordingly, I would anticipate the government will shortly be announcing some of its plans to enter into further Joint Ventures with the private sector. It is to be hoped that this will achieve some real gain in affordable housing stock, whether it is public housing, affordable private rental or stock for sale. It would be beneficial to see this taken one step further to see some of the sites being redeveloped as mixed housing options that satisfy more than just the social housing component of affordable housing.

With any reference to tenants who break the law or are in constant breach of their tenancies, naturally they should face the consequences of their actions where a matter is deemed serious regardless of whether they are public or private tenants – they fall under the same Act.

However, if the Government were to conduct more regular reviews of public housing tenancies – for both full market renters and rebated tenants – departmental staff would be in the position to monitor, on a regular basis, if there is a need for intervention (eg. Property damage, rental arrears or debt management, neighbourhood disputes which require referral to Police/Conflict Resolution).

To bring the system up to par, a good starting point would be to redress the obviously contentious matter of the current Government’s ‘security of tenure’ policy.

The point of difference being here that the Liberals will reassess the eligibility and allocations criterion and put in place a model that better reflects and clearly addresses ‘need’ of a prospective Housing client for the period of their need.

The argument surrounding the reliance of the system on full market renters will become a problem for any government of the day that does not recognise the percentage of full market renters is dwindling. This is forecast to drop further due to Housing ACT concentrating predominantly now on housing people most in need (which it should naturally be doing).

The Housing Minister will have to source other forms of funds to cover this trend in reductions in revenue that have been relied upon to cover costs of offering rebated rent to the majority of Housing ACT tenants.

There is a clear and obvious point of difference here between the ALP and the Liberal Party about what the eligibility criteria should be for gaining and maintaining a public housing tenancy agreement.

The Liberal Party is committed to offering public housing as just one of the affordable housing options to those most in need for the duration of that need.

In conjunction with this approach to re-aligning public policy for housing, greater commitment will be needed to increasing the number of affordable private rental options and wherever possible encouraging and supporting people with the financial means into home ownership.

I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect the government to take a leadership role in working towards offering a number of different options for affordable housing in the ACT, which are targeted and responsive to meet any projected need.

midnitecalla2:43 pm 19 Dec 05

Two thumbs up guys. totally agree with you

Cheers Mael – I think we’re on the right track. Perhaps the honourable Ms Burke can take some of our suggestions on board and float them in the appropriate forum. This would be preferable because it would save guys like us standing for the assembly in years to come – thus putting the more inactive and unresponsive MLA’s out of work.

As for my comment on Ms Foskey – it applies to all of her ilk; i.e. anyone who ties up assets that should be available for the truly needy. If more funding is needed then I suggest we source the money from the arboretum project (did somebody say white elephant?), Civic redevelopement projects, MLA’s paychecks (sorry Jacqui – but it’s a bloody good wicket y’all are on), and the upcoming Canberra Centenary Celebrations. I think it more important to have our needy housed than set up a series of wasteful public spectacles.

What better way to celebrate what should be one of the world’s best cities than to combat this ongoing problem? Without sounding like a wanker, I think we should be an example to cities accross the country (and the world), and having a viable public housing system is vital.

Bulldog, I like your thinking.

Perhaps if housing damages were automatically attributed towards a Centrelink debt we would find more public tennants looking after their cherished roof over their heads.

There’s nothing like the threat of an impending bill to change somebody’s mind about putting a hammer through every bit of gyprock in the house.

Back to topic – ACT housing is in crisis – I have a recently widowed friend who has been told that the soonest she can expect to be provided with emergency accomodation is eighteen months down the track. Obviously that time frame contradicts the term “emergency”.

Regardless of the above ramblings – she is not anything other than a mother who could only work part time due to the age of her kids. Without her partner’s income she can no longer afford to stay in her privately rented house. So where should she go for eighteen months whilst the emergency list is whittled down?

The problem is not two or three untis in Kanangra court that are ‘unliveable’. It does not even stop with Ms Foskey’s option to tie up a valuable government asset for no other reason than the fact she is too lazy to enter the real world. It seems to me that a serious overhaul of ACT housing is needed.

As for people destroying government assets – if they should continue to do this sort of thing lock them up. There once again seems to be double standards within the community whereby the perpetrators of damage and destruction seem to go unpunished. However, if my vehicle knocked over a light pole and I refused to pay for it I have no doubt that the coppers would knock on my door, drag me to the station and charge me; with the ‘no payment’ option being thirty days in gaol.

Finally, one must ask the question – what is the hold-up in repairing and cleaning these tenancies when they have clearly been vacated for some time? I drive past a couple of government complex and town-house site on a daily basis – I have seen ‘abandoned’ accomodation sit idle and in various states of disrepair for months at a time. Why is housing not arranging the necessary repairs and maintenance ASAP so we can try and reduce the eighteen months “emergency” timeframe?

Ms Burke, could you please tell us what the ACT needs to do in order to bring our housing system up to par – and how would you implement the necessary changes? Finally – is there any feasible way we can ‘clean up’ these tenancies so that the occurence of assault, vandalism and drug related crime is reduced?

midnitecalla10:52 pm 18 Dec 05

Dvd, I Do Drive about the ACT and as a cab driver who has been held up with said knife/ syringe and also have family who fit your summation i walk the razors edge.

Your ignorance is showing and intolerance as well

im not saying be soft on those who tear a perfectly serviceable home apart, quite the opposite , but they still need to be sheltered so you are seemingly bracketing all those who do have it hard

and cannot afford to keep up with the joneses with the hard core.this is unfair and narrowminded

at least you can afford 300 pw rent, and probably in a nicer part of the territory, than the areas you are commenting about too boot.probably havent walked near the afflicted areas just “safari park cruised” and making assumptions from that.

Dont . we are all one pay check away from the gutter and i have found this out to my cost.

Nice idea to kick them all out….but where would they go? A tent on your nature strip maybe? Or even more festies hassling for money in Civic.


“Im tired of people Just focusing on the “druggosand bogans” when some Tenants have finessed thier way on to Public housing then given it to thier spoilt Children who then did the deed then left the bill for the taxpayer to foot.claiming innocent “youthful exuberance” and refused to pay? those are scum as well DVD.”- I agree completely with that, if you use and abuse it you should forefit the right to any further assistance, as for pulling the old card if we dont hold hands with these poor people and give them help they will get worse ???

Any piece of shit thats willing to stick someone with a needle or pull a knife to get what they want will do it regardless of what they have at their disposal, the reason for this is that they are drug fucked or they are simply couldn’t care less.

And why do people have to go straight AFTER seeing the ‘horrors of the cesspool’ ? It’s no secret where making the wrong choices leads to, its like saying someone has strength of character to stop using drugs – what a load of bollocks. What about those people who have the strength of character and common sense to stay away from it in the first place ?.

Take a drive around any decent street in any suburb in Canberra, then go have a look at Kanagra Court. If the depravity and destruction at the honourable end of town rivals the low end of town, why aren’t there abandoned cars, graffiti, smashed windows, old furniture, needles and needle disposal bins littering the streets of Canberra ?

FYI I don’t own my own home I live in a 2 bedroom apartment and pay $300 a week rent.

midnitecalla6:42 pm 17 Dec 05

Ahh DVD your prejudice is showing as well as a distinct lack of intelligence.

so you and your family Own your Houses? priveledged are we? sorry old son but some of us are respectable hard working people who do have Public housing, But due to your Sector of the societeal structure makes it Very hard to amass a Deposit to buy a over priced Chocolate box, from Profiteering Construction Families / Firms whilst paying bills raising families and being branded a outlaw out cast whilst serving your Spoon Fed pampered powdered arse, in a low paying job.

I Have Lived In QueanBeyan and Goulburn due to postings, and I find that they have the same corrosive attitudes to Canberra as you have Indicated toward thier towns earlier.

just because you live in the ACT does not mean that you are by birth better than they.

As far as the Criminal Element I have seen just as much depravity/ destruction in the “respectable” and Honourable end of town to Rival the usual low end of town point for point.

Im tired of people Just focusing on the “druggosand bogans” when some Tenants have finessed thier way on to Public housing then given it to thier spoilt Children who then did the deed then left the bill for the taxpayer to foot.claiming innocent “youthful exuberance” and refused to pay? those are scum as well DVD.

pushing off ” The Scum” Also dosent cure the problem it worsens it. homeless desperate people will have no qualms in ripping off soft targets to survive/ and squatting will rise also.

also there are some of us who are going straight after seeing the horrors of Stir and you are relagating them and thier efforts right back in to the cesspool that they are trying to leave.

you have no knowledge at all DVD you just think you do.

Most of the people I know in public housing are all crooks, instead of giving these junkies a place to live why not give people who are decent normal people going through a hard time a place to live. I doubt so many places would be trashed, the junkies and crooks smash each place up and we have to foot the bill, ad far as i’m concerned if you have a substantial criminal record you shouldn’t qualify for public housing.

With any luck some of the scum will move to queanbeyan or goulburn.

With a bit more luck they will get hit by a bus on the way there.

It sounds like a good idea to use vacant places for emergency accomodation, but I can see some issues. One near us was vacant, but it was in an unlivable state. The shower head had been ripped off, there were holes in walls, floors and ceiling, broken windows, injecting meterials in the grass and a dead dog under the house.
If the govt did put anyone in place like this, even just to get a roof over their head, they could be sued if the person injured themself.
also – how would you ever then get the people out, when you were ready to fix the place up to give to the next person on the list?

barking toad10:47 pm 16 Dec 05

Ahh, Maelinar, you’ve beaten me to it again

That place in Yarralumla should be available – and I don’t mean the GG’s house

Make your mark Jacqui, get that hippie’s snout out of the trough!

Ms Burke,

There has been considerable discussion as I am sure you are most aware regarding the status of the public housing system in the ACT.

Whilst I’m sure that Areaman will most emphatically assure you that people who are sitting with their snouts in the trough paying ‘market rent’ are actually, indeed, propping up the housing department, I’m most amused to see that avaliability of public housing is indeed in crisis as per your media release.

I am of course assuming that any public house could be provided on a temporary emergency basis if required.

Quite simply, the resources are avaliable right now. Given that there are several houses that contain people that do not need housing assistance at all, and indeed have the financial capacity to purchase their own properties quite easily.

Whilst I believe that this knee-jerk reaction by the Chief Commisar is required by the community, yet again this is a bandaid solution which will not solve any problems, for instance should a few more busloads of homeless people arrive, there is no residual capacity within the system to accomodate them, as it is stretched beyond it’s limit already.

That’s JB johnboy, not JB Jacqui Burke, by the way.
(But doesn’t that make you wonder – has anyone ever actually seen them in the same room at the same time?)

(Ok, yes, Friday, silly, so sue me)

Sounds like someone has a crush on you JB

Not I.

but it’s good to know I have a doppleganger I can blame things on.

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