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Tenants set sites on home

WATERLOO: Persistent public housing tenants in NSW learn fast the ins and outs of bureaucracy when trying to resolve problems in their living situations. One resident of Waterloo and public housing tenant has creatively sought a way to assist others who would like to move from their current location Reports Kate Williamson in the November 2011 issues of the South Sydney Herald.

Jacqui Kennedy established the Our House Swap website 10 years ago so that tenants could list their current house and desired living arrangements for potential matches.

Before the site was established, tenants took out advertisements in their local newspaper hoping to garner interest. Sadly, this has proved unsuccessful in most cases; and waiting for Housing NSW to arrange a transfer can take many years.

Ms Kennedy believes that Housing NSW relies on a large percentage of people to get so frustrated with the process that many will give up their housing security and move into the private rental market to obtain appropriate housing for their family.

Once a match is made there is no guarantee that a swap will be granted approval by the housing authorities.

Ms Kennedy recalls a case of two householders who had found a suitable match in Tasmania yet had their move delayed because of bureaucratic rigidity. One couple with two children and about to have a baby had a two-bedroom unit. The other tenant who lived in a three-bedroom house wanted to downsize into a smaller home after her children moved out to find their own accommodation.

Housing refused the exchange on the basis that the tenant living alone must relocate to a one-bedroom – even though one-bedroom accommodation is a rare configuration for public housing. Ultimately, the Ombudsman had to intervene to see the exchange go through.

The activity on the site is high. Ms Kennedy estimates around 17,000 registrations in the 10-year period since it started, with 500 successful matches every year.

Given the success of the venture, Ms Kennedy hopes to use this experience to look for other ways the community can become active, instead of being at the mercy of government policies and procedures.

She has joined others in the area to form the Groundswell Coalition (whose website she has designed and maintains). It is a reaction to the Built Environment and Master Planning process launched by the planning authorities, which has the potential to impact significantly on housing in the area. Groundswell is working hard for greater clarity on the nature of these impacts. S

Source: November 2011 South Sydney Herald