Rabu, 31 Agustus 2011

Social Housing Month

It's September, which means it's Social Housing Month at the Brown Couch!

In each of our two previous Social Housing Months, we've focused public housing, as provided by Housing NSW, the Grandpa Munster of the New South Wales social housing system. This year we'll share the attention around to our other forms of social housing: warm and fuzzy community housing –

– sexy, but hard-to-get Affordable Housing –

– and 'deadlier than Dracula' Aboriginal Housing.

But first, we return to one of the issues that kicked off Social Housing Month in the first place: social housing rent increases – and in particular, the fate of that $30 per week increase in pensions granted by the Commonwealth Government back in 2009.

Brown Couch readers will remember that the Commonwealth had declared the increase would be, for one year, off-limits to social housing landlords when they calculated tenants' income-related rents... and that when the year was up, Housing NSW figured the increase was fair game. The indignation of fiesty pensioners, however, scared Housing NSW off, for another year.

Now that extra year's grace is about to expire. What will become of the increase? I guess we'll see in next week's State Budget.

There may be another issue like this on the horizon too. The Commonwealth Government's carbon price package, Clean Energy Future, includes increases to Centrelink payments and Family Tax Benefit payments, and a Low Income Supplement, to offset increased energy prices. And the Commonwealth states:

Assistance is not intended to be included in state government public housing rent setting calculations so that public housing residents get the full benefit of assistance.

Worth making a note of that.

And as always, it is worth sparing a thought for the more than 800 000 low-income households who rent privately in Australia, and what may become of their assistance.

But, to be honest, there is a larger problem in social housing rent setting than that of Housing NSW clutching at small supplements to people's incomes. This is the problem of what happens when a social housing tenant earns additional income through work.

For each additional dollar earned by a social housing tenant, 25 cents is clawed away by their landlord – and if they're a public housing tenant, and they earn enough to put them into the 'moderate income' range, Housing NSW clutches away almost 50 cents in each additional dollar.

And if they're so foolhardy to earn more than that moderate income range, they face losing their house altogether. But virtually no public housing tenants are so foolhardy.

This is the truly enervating effect of social housing rents.