Tipping the scales in housing court

(from NYT) Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch

There’s an interesting opinion piece in Thursday’s New York Times looking at the lack of legal representation for tenants in evictions proceedings.  In Queensland, we generally don’t allow lawyers in the tenancy tribunal but the principle of unrepresented tenants still applies.  If we don’t win the longer term campaign to get tenant advice services refunded we might see the emergence of some of the poor practices referred to in this piece.

Read the New York Times piece, Tipping the Scales in Housing Court here.


Media coverage of today’s announcement by Federal govt

There’s been lots of media coverage of today’s announcement by the Federal Housing Minister that $3.3M dollars of emergency funding will be provided to Tenant Advice and Advocacy Services in Queensland.

This money will take services through until June 2013, all 23 which included the Tenants’ Union of Queensland,  It is hoped that by then the Queensland government will return tenant bond interest to services for tenants rather than redirect it to other uses.  See some of the coverage below:

The Brisbane Times:  read here
ninemsn:  read here
The Courier Mail onine:  read here
The Gladstone Observer:  read here
The Westender:  read here

Send your notice to remedy breach to the Housing Minister today!

In celebration of International Tenants’ Day, we need your help again today, Tuesday October 2.  Send a Notice to Remedy Breach to Housing Minister Bruce Flegg, asking him to remedy his breach and reinstate funding for free, universally accessible tenant advice services.  At the Save Tenant Services headquarters, we’re about to send ours off!

For those of you who don’t know how these tenancy forms work, you have to tell the other person what their breach is and ask them to rectify it by a specified date.  On October 2, you can describe the breach in your own words or use one of our suggestions, then ask the Minister to rectify the problem by October 31, the date on which the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service funding will be discontinued.   

How to help step by step:

  1. Fill in a Form 11 Notice to Remedy Breach – (you can make up your own or use samples).  Use the NTRB filled in or fill in the empty  NTRB here.
  2. Today, October 2, email or fax this notice to the HOUSING MINISTER to  [email protected] or (Fax) 07 3012 9017  or send it by Australia Post to GPO Box 2457 BRISBANE   QLD 4001
  3. Tell your friends, family and colleagues to join the action.

If you would like to learn more about International Tenants’ Day 2012 please read this link.  Or visit the IUT’s website at http://www.iut.nu/ 

On August 28, the Day of Action, we sent messages and made phone calls to the Minister.  We delivered postcards to the Premier.  The government needs another reminder, send a Notice to Remedy Breach today, October 2.

PS International Tenants’ Day is actually on the first Monday of October, which is the 1st this year, but because it’s a holiday, we’re sending the notice to remedy to reach the Minister on Tuesday October the second.

Getting rid of anti-social or introducing discrimination?

The Minister for Housing today discussed introducing a ‘three strikes and your out’ policy for public housing tenants.  Read the media article here.  Is this a good idea?

The  Minister’s comments, suggesting greater support for public housing tenants, are welcomed.  However, it’s hard not to be cynical about what the change might really mean in the face of cutting funds to every tenant advocate in the state, including those engaged in housing policy and law reform.  Who will be at the table to ensure the changes really are targeted at the ‘worst of the worst’ as the Minister says? And who will help tenants to defend claims they think are unreasonable? Continue reading

International Tenants’ Day – 1st Monday in October

The first Monday in October is International Tenants’ Day.  The theme this year is Rental Housing – why we like it!   Whilst will be a bit of a sad ITD this year in Queensland, with the withdrawal of funding to important services which assist tenants remain appropriately and safely housed, we’re going to do something special to let the Minister for Housing know how important these services are.  And we’re going to be asking for your help!  Watch this space!

Comments on ‘Life Matters’ piece

Following on from the piece on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters yesterday with the Queensland Housing Minister and the Tenants’ Union of Queensland’s Coordinator, there have been some interesting comments made on the website.  Like this one from LEO PR :

18 Sep 2012 4:26:52pm
Yes, and as more people rent, and rents go up, the money available for the RTA to invest and spend on the TAAS’s actually went up.

The RTA had a surplus of $10.8 million last financial year. That is, they had $580 million to invest, they achieved a 7.9% ROI (1.9% above what they had budgeted for), for a $45.9m income. They spent $35m, including $4.6m on the TAAS’s (including the TUQ’s 300k). Figures are rounded.

If they had wished, they could have doubled the funding to TAAS’s and still retained an operating surplus

To read more comments, make one or listen to the audio, go to this link.

Renters lose as advice services whitewashed from state budget

500,000 Queensland renting households are the losers in today’s state budget The government failed to reinstated the virtually self funded tenant advice services recently cut, and no replacement program was announced.

At the same time, the government reintroduced stamp duty concessions for repeat home purchasers, acknowledging they will lose $1B over four years in lost revenue.  These concessions are additional to those already in place for first home purchasers.

The first home owner’s grant has been revised and increased, and will provide a $15,000 grant to those who buy off the plan or construct a house or apartment, costing the government $75M by 2013/4 and up to $95M in 2015/16.

The Queensland Treasurer said that Queensland is the best state to buy your own home in.  But it will probably be the worst place to rent in for tenants who will no longer have access to free tenancy advice, which cost a mere $5M per year and are funded mainly from interest generated on tenant’s own bond interest.

The budget papers also announced a review of tenancy laws – no details provided – and social housing entitlements.

Social housing reforms up for review are under occupancy; the introduction of fixed term tenancies for all social housing tenants; stock transfers (and possibly staff) to the community housing sector and a review of rent policy.

Queensland residential renters are clearly the losers in the state budget and it is hard not to be cynical about the motivations of removing tenant advocates across the state at the same time as reviewing these issues.

The wrong solution to the right problem

This piece is written by Peter Young who is a lecturer in the School of Human Services and Social Work at Griffith University.  He is a former director of policy with the Queensland Department of Housing.

Queensland Housing workers rallied in Brisbane this week to protest against cuts to housing services announced in July by the Housing Minister, Dr Bruce Flegg.

The Newman Government’s decision to de‐fund the Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Services, and to sell off three State owned caravan parks, is akin to dismantling and selling off a fence at the top of a cliff to pay for a portion of a new ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. The shortage of public housing in Queensland matters, but finding relatively small savings through de‐funding preventative housing programs is a self‐defeating approach. Continue reading

Government’s commitment to funding social housing patchy

Is it really a government priority to redirect all monies available into the expansion of social housing?

‘Putting a roof over people’s heads’, expanding social housing and reducing the 30,000 household waitlist is the rationale expressed by the Minister for Housing when he cut funding to all 23 Tenant Advice and Advocacy Services across the state and reallocated $5M of tenant bond interest money.

However, has this government applied this priority across portfolios?

Continue reading

How do you rate the Premier’s response on talkback?

The Premier did talkback on local ABC station 612 with Steve Austin this morning.  He go two questions about the discontinuation of the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Program but we’re not sure he actually answered the questions.  See for yourself.

To listen, click on the link below   Press play and drag circle inside the player timer to 10.15.  This is where the first of the two back to back questions start.
Listen here