Prior to October 2012, funding for tenant advice services (provided through the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Services [TAAS] Program) came mainly from a small percentage of the interest generated on tenants’ bonds. Bonds are held in trust by the government’s Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA). The RTA invests the bond money and generates millions of dollars in interest annually. Most of the interest made is used to run the RTA which, while providing impartial services across the industry, is fully funded from tenant bond interest. Until funding withdrawal, the RTA provided a small percentage of the bond interest to the Department of Housing to administer the TAAS program.
In 2010, 9% of annual RTA bond interest was provided for the TAAS Program. In 2011, the figure grew slightly to 11%. In 2012, about 12% of annual bond interest income ($5M) was sent to the Department to fund the TAASQ Program.
In 2010, the RTA spent 60% of the annual bond interest on its own operations. In 2011 it spent 63%. In 2012, about 75% of the annual bond interest was required for the RTA’s own operations.
Prior to October 2012 the Department of Housing contributed some monies to the Program for services provided by tenant advice services but not considered the responsibility of private rental market bond payers to fund. In the 2012 year, the Department contributed about $1.4M for services provided to rooming accommodation residents and social housing tenants. However, with a small increase in the percentage of bond interest contributed, the entire TAAS program could be funded in that way.
As of June 2012, it was estimated that the TAAS sector employed around 90-95 people (approximately 65 effective full time employees) through 29 service outlets in the state. The RTA currently employed around 180 effective full time staff in their one central office in Brisbane.
Across the Tenants’ Union of Qld and local tenant advice services staff have decades of experience providing tenancy advice and assisting tenants. If funding to these services is not reinstated, this expertise will be lost.
It is unclear how many staff hours and workers have been lost in the TAAS sector since the state government’s original announcement of funding withdrawal. Funding from the Commonwealth government was at about 20-25% less that what would have been received by services if funding hadn’t been withdrawn. However, as off June 2013, services for tenants are still available in all areas wherer TAASs used to be funded. Some of these services are now being delivered through the TUQ, as the funding difficulties have proven distressing and challenging for some of the smaller (and very dedicated) management committees.
The second rescue package is due to run out on December 31, 2013. The future for these important tenant advice services, including the TUQ is unclear.