NB 285 households is around.005% of total public housing households.
Media Release 15-9-13
Minister for Housing & Public Works Hon Tim Mander
Housing Minister Tim Mander has vowed to fix public housing rules that allow tenants to take getaways of up to 12 months without losing their public housing properties.
Figures released by the Minister today reveal public tenants took 285 breaks of between 3-12 months last financial year and were absent from their taxpayer subsidised homes for an average of 171 days.
Mr Mander said the current rules not only permitted a leave of absence for tenants receiving medical treatment but also for those planning extended holidays and even those who have been jailed for a criminal offence.
“Obviously, the current situation is absurd and needs to be changed,” he said.
“It’s one thing to allow an extended absence if someone is undergoing a lengthy stay in hospital or a rehab facility but it’s completely inappropriate to apply the same rules to people who are absent because they’re in prison or who just want to take a lengthy holiday.
“The relaxed regime put in place by the former Government means public tenants don’t even need to notify the department of any absence shorter than three months.
“While breaks of more than three months have to be approved, since 2008 only 2.3% of requests for an extended leave of absence have been rejected, allowing more than 1,360 tenants to take breaks of up to 12 months.
“Adding insult to injury for taxpayers is the fact that in many cases, tenants have their rent reduced to a little as $10.95 per week for the duration of their break and can even have friends stay in their homes, rent free.”
Mr Mander said he was keen to see the system brought in line with community expectations.
“The current situation doesn’t even go close to passing the common sense test,” he said.
“When there are still almost 22,000 households on the public housing waiting list, it is ridiculous to allow people to disappear for a whole year.
“These properties are designed to be used, not left sitting vacant while people are away on holidays or in prison.
“Public housing is a scarce resource and we need to make sure it is going to those who need it most”.