Government changes in absences in public housing – STS comments

Housing Minister Tim Mander has announced he will crack down on public housing tenantsJudging up who are away from their rental home for more than 3 months.

The Minister’s press release implied public housing tenants who took leave from their rental properties were taking unjustified holiday breaks “Obviously, the current situation is absurd and needs to be changed,” he said.

The Queensland government is the largest landlord in Queensland and manages 51,705 rental properties. The Minister’s figures revealed that 285 tenants successfully sought permission to be away from their property for between 3 and 12 months last year.

To take a leave of absence Tenants must have a valid reason and apply to the Department for permission.

Public housing tenants may take leave from their properties for many reasons, including caring for family members, extended hospital treatments, rehabilitation, or short periods of imprisonment. Any implication that many public housing tenants are taking unjustified extended overseas holidays is clearly misleading.

All tenant absences must be approved by the Department of Housing in accordance with their policy guidelines.The Ministers’ statement discredits those tenants who have followed the rules and been granted permission to be absent from their rental properties. These approvals represent just .005 % of public housing tenancies.

We agree that public housing is a scarce resource and we need to make sure it is going to those who need it most. However with a portfolio of 51,000 properties the Minister’s attack on 285 approved absences seems misdirected.

In seeking to solve an apparent policy problem the Minister’s comments do great harm to his public housing portfolio. The Housing Minister Tim Mander has responsibility for providing government subsidised housing for the most impoverished and disadvantaged renters. It is concern that such comments denigrate public housing tenants, the policies and hard-working staff who manage public housing every day.

The state government houses 51,700 household’s but public housing is a tiny part of the rental market. In Queensland government relies on the private rental market to house 10 times this number, over 500,000 households. In all 33% of Queenslanders live in rental housing.

We think it is much more important for the Housing Minister to address the need for tenant support services. Next year 80,000 households will miss out on access to tenant advice services due to government funding cuts.

Tenant advice services provide critical support for tenants to understand their rights, resolve disputes, and ensure the balanced operation of the rental market.

It is time the Minister addressed these issues and agreed to provide funding for tenant advice services in Queensland

2 thoughts on “Government changes in absences in public housing – STS comments

  1. “We think it is much more important for the Housing Minister to address the need for tenant support services”!

    • Not to the Minister Tim Mander, eager to offload the touchy stock of the public housing to community housing companies. Whatever it takes to outsource our elementary needs of survival. Out-of-sight out-of-mind … no longer answerable to Parliament.

    Sept 22 Sunday Mail (page 22) draws attention that the public housing tenants will have to pay bond and cover excess water charges under new laws introduced by the Newman Government. Housing Minister Tim Mander said: “the move was part of a plan to prepare them (forsaken citizens) for the transition into the social housing, and private rental market”.

  2. Mr Mander said public housing tenants would be given a two-year grace period during which time the Dept of Housing would guarantee the bond. While the changes won’t be instant, a peak tenancy group has warned it could put the state’s most vulnerable under even more financial pressure. Mr Mander said the decision to make the changes was due to the Newman Government’s plan to transfer the management of 90% of its public housing tenancies into the hand of the community housing sector.

    “They currently have a separate way of operating than the state. They ask for bonds and they charge excess water charges”, Mr Mander said. “We want people to understand that social housing is a transitional arrangement. We are trying to help them be prepared for going out in the private rental market, understanding that there’s a group of people that will always be in special housing because we need to look after them. We understand it’s a big change so we have a two-year moratorium. The community housing organisations then have another year to be able to obtain these bonds”.

    Mr Mander said during that time the department would look at creating different financial products to help tenants save for the bonds. “What we will do for the first two years for those that are transferring to community housing organisations is that we’ll guarantee the bonds”, he said. “We’ll be helping people save for those bonds which we’ve worked out would be around about $5 a week for the next two years”.

    He said interest-free bond loans were also available. “We want consistency, we want to help with the normalisation process”, he said. Mr Mander said the state policy on how much rent a public housing tenant will have to pay will remain capped at 25% of the tenant’s wage. The changes are before a Parliamentary committee and expected to be passed by State Parliament soon.