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A Tenent Response to Housing NSW - Future Directions Tenant Participation Program Discussion Paper

The future of Public Tenants Councils are in doubt as a result of the latest proposals from Housing NSW. Here Ross Smith reflects on a recent Housing NSW meeting to look at Future Directions Tenant Participation.
The Central Sydney Region Public Tenants Council has a thirty year plus history with a strong involvement and support for Housing NSW tenants in the Waterloo area. Examples being Australia Day celebrations on Waterloo Green in 1988, rallies against changes to Public Housing Legislation in both Waterloo and Macquarie Street, campaigning for and support of the establishment of the Estate Advisory Boards that preceeeded Waterloo and Redfern Neighbourhood Advisory Boards, advocacy for the benefit of Waterloo and Redfern Public Housing tenants with politicians over a wide range of subjects including supply of services, community support, changes in legislation , including the RWA's function, to name a few.

I attended the Central Sydney Division session on 26/03/08
I witnessed the launching of the timetable for the end of the Public Tenants Council (PTCs) and the Regional Tenant Resource Services (RTRSs) as such. The proposed replacement funded service is meant to be a combination of the two.
It marked the end of the volunteer driven and operated Tenant based Community development that came into being many years ago after much pressure from the tenant body. 
The model 'proposed' required an operating sytem that would be beyond the capacity of any volunteer based organisation to supply. This marked the end of any capacity to map existing need from a service recipient perspective, much less future need.
The model proposed envisaged Housing NSW 'consulting' with the PRTS [ the new to be funded service delivery contractor] and the Social Housing Tenant Committee [ note the new name for the Social Housing Tenant Council as per EoI ] as the sole means of seeking the views of the tenant body on all matters that Housing NSW felt obliged to do so.
It also opened the door for the large organisations such as St Vincents, Centacare, Benevolent Society, Barnardoes, Salvation Army etc to step up to the plate and swallow the lot - i.e. outsourcing of TP to a single organisation, something that is much cheaper to administer from the funding body's side.
Housing NSW refused to supply the ARTD Tenant Participation Review report on which they claimed the proposals were based, along with Housing's Corporate Plan - not the edited highlights as currently posted on their website. One must wonder as to how bad the comments on the role of Housing NSW were that they supress the report and how can the outcomes delivered by Housing NSW be assessed if the Corporate Plan is not available - so much for Openess, Transparency and Accountability on Housing NSW's part.
I for one found it very hard to respond to a proposal based on paperwork/reference/background material that was not supplied. The limited paperwork supplied to the NGOs and PTCs was supplied on the eve of the consultation to the NGOs and PTCs. Housing NSW staff were however supplied many days ago.
There had been prior sessions with Housing NSW staff. There were no NGOs or PTCs present at those sessions, yet Housing NSW staff did attend the sole session in Central Sydney Division for NGOs and PTCs. Why were the NGOs and PTCs denied the opportunity to hear Housing NSW staff views on the proposal yet were expected to bare all in front of Housing NSW? Where was the equality of treatment?
The other highlight was Housing NSW's claims of valuing volunteers and their contributions, yet absolute failure to have any formal recognition of the volunteers. A policy that is barely in the discussion phase is not recognition and does not require supply of all the things such as insurance, training, reimbursements of costs etc that volunteers receive from all other users of volunteers.
It is my belief that this new model will be the straw that that broke the camel's back. The apathy already created by Housing NSW and its predecessors in the tenant body towards Tenant Participation will become absolute. The speed of achievement of total apathy will be accelerated by the current Allocation policies of Housing NSW and their inbuilt community destruction components. The well tested and proven method of having statistics to show the total success of any customer service oriented organisation is to remove the ability of the customers to make their feelings, especially discontent, known to the alleged Service Supplier.
Ross Smith

The discussion Paper referred to above can be viewed at: Housing NSW - Future Directions Tenant Participation Program Discussion Paper - March 2008 (94 KB PDF)