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New maintenance backlog reduction system?

The social housing maintenance backlog was reduced from $620 million in 2008/09 to $300 million in 2011, according to the current NSW Housing Minister writes Ross Smith in the Opinion piece in the May 2012 edition of The South Sydney Herald.

An article in the Inner-West Courier, dated April 3, 2012, identifies a new approach to further reducing the public housing maintenance backlog in NSW. The approach identified in the article advises: (1) Fail to do the maintenance, despite frequent requests for the work to be done; (2) Wait to see if the tenant gives up requesting maintenance, at which stage the maintenance request can be removed from the books; (3) If the tenant persists in asking for maintenance to be done, offer the tenant the forms to apply for a transfer; (4) When the application for transfer is lodged close the maintenance file for the particular property and shift it from the outstanding maintenance issues register to the Planned Works register.

The fact that outstanding applications for transfer are not included in the recently announced waiting list initiative is not revealed to the transfer applicant. Transfer applications are not included in the Expected Waiting Times lists to be issued annually by Housing NSW.

If the tenant were aware of Transfer timeframes the potential for the maintenance backlog reduction process to go full cycle would be reduced. There would be potential of an increased accessing of external avenues for gaining maintenance work on the part of the tenants.

The NSW Housing Minister said on coming to government, action was taken to transfer the responsibility for the bricks and mortar of housing assets to the Department of Finance and Services. “This has allowed Housing NSW to fully concentrate on addressing the housing demands of those in need,” the Minister said.

That a property is allowed to deteriorate in condition, fitness for purpose, and value, due to ongoing failure to perform maintenance, amounts to a breach of duty of care obligations towards both the tenants and the government.

If this increasingly common breach of duty of care arises from turf wars between two government departments, Department of Financial Services and Housing NSW, the NSW government needs to act swiftly to end the inter­departmental wars and thus ensure government assets are used for the purpose that they were acquired for, and remain an asset for the state.

Source: The South Sydney Herald May 2012 –