Senin, 04 Maret 2013

Changes to public housing 'succession'

This is not a pleasant thought, but think for a moment if the person you live with died, or suddenly up and left you.

If you live in public housing, and the other person was the tenant on the lease, you have to deal not just with the loss of a significant person from your life – you'll also have to deal with the prospect of losing your home too.

Under current Housing NSW policy, you may be able to remain in your home and take on the lease yourself if you satisfy certain conditions. Spouses of tenants get to stay on; otherwise, you generally have to show that you're eligible for social housing and have lived in the property for at least two years.

Now the NSW State Government has announced that it will change this. The conditions for taking on a tenancy ('succession') will be even tighter. If you're aged under 55 years – regardless of whether you're a spouse, or some other relation – you'll have to show that you satisfy the test for priority housing, a much tougher test. If you don't, you'll get a six month tenancy – a small mercy – then be made to leave.

Says Family and Community Services Minister Prue Goward:

This new approach will encourage household members to find housing in the private rental market and discourage their dependence on tax-payer funded housing.

True, it is difficult to see how some of the criteria for priority housing – especially those relating to 'urgent housing need', which are all about people being in very bad housing situations that they need to get out of – will be satisfied by someone seeking succession (that is, trying to stay in the housing they're in).

But we expect that people will do their hardest to pass the test.

If you're in your 50s, suddenly single and don't own your own home, what does the New South Wales private rental market look like to you? It's not an appealling prospect; in fact, it's pretty horrifying.

And if what it takes to stay in your home, and stay in the system, is to knock back work, get sick, and convince Housing NSW and yourself that you're wretchedly, hopelessly unable to cope out there, you might well do it.

Discouraging dependence? On the contrary.

A further point, about the way this change in policy was announced.

Now imagine again that you've lost an important person from your life, and you may lose your home – and into the bargain the Daily Telegraph calls you a 'houso rorter' and 'freeloader', and the Family and Community Services Minister calls you a 'queue-jumper'.

People living in public housing have come to know they have to grow a thick skin, but this sort of disparagement would catch even the sturdiest person off-guard. Please: knock it off.