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Public housing tenants deserve better

Earlier this year the former Housing Minister issued a media release announcing $1.6 billion for repairs and upgrades for public housing says the Editorial in the South Sydney Herald of November 2008.

Ross Smith (housing activist) comments: “I found a press release from April 27, 2005, issued by the then Minister for Housing, Joe Tripodi. The heading was ‘$2.7 billion investment in new and upgraded homes’. It announced the Government’s $30 billion infrastructure plan, how the $2.7 billion for the public housing component was to be raised, and set out the 10-year timeframe for implementation.”

The reason cited for the plan was to raise $640 million from public housing tenants through the imposition of water charges, plus a 20 per cent minimum rise in the base rent to finance elimination of the maintenance backlog as identified by the Auditor General. The second item showed that this plan followed on from a previous one whereby the base rent was raised by one per cent per annum over a five-year period, once again to finance elimination of the maintenance backlog. A pattern is noticeable, with three constants – the never decreased maintenance backlog, the ever-increasing rent to eliminate the backlog, and the overall failure to control, much less reduce, the maintenance backlog.

The “new” scheme announced this year is in its second reincarnation. What the media release did not tell the public is that the only maintenance work to be done over the next two years is that of an Occupational Health & Safety nature. There is to be a two-year lead-in time whilst all work is identified, scoped and mapped. This translates to a minimum two-year holiday on all non-OH&S-related maintenance.

Public housing has been run down over the last 10 years. If recent bi-election swings against the Government aren’t to be repeated, the Government and the Department will need to do much better.

Source: South Sydney Herald November 2008