Selasa, 09 April 2013

Social housing landlords grab carbon payments

Last month pensioners and other recipients of social security payments started receiving the Clean Energy Supplement and, as foreshadowed, Housing NSW has started taking a bit of the supplement (25-30 per cent of it) in rent, by including it in the assessment of public housing tenants' rent rebates.

Housing NSW states its rationale:

Ongoing increases in general income support payments to social housing tenants, such as the carbon tax payments paid to people receiving pensions and allowances, are included as assessable income when social housing rents are calculated.

The NSW Government has included these payments in rent calculations in accordance with the normal rent setting practices.

You can see where Housing NSW has gotten it wrong. The Clean Energy Supplement (in Housing NSW's terms, the 'carbon tax payment') is not a 'general income support payment'. It has a specific purpose – to offset the additional costs of the new carbon pricing system ('the carbon tax').

And including this supplement in rent rebate calculations is not 'in accordance with normal rent setting practices'. Normal practice is to not consider these specific purpose supplements. Normal practice is what happens to the pension supplement paid specifically to offset the costs of the GST – it does not get assessed in the calculation of rent rebates. This has been the case for more than a decade.

It's not just Housing NSW making this unjustified grab. We hear community housing landlords are doing it too – except there's no mention of the Clean Energy Supplement as 'assessable income' under the Community Housing Rent Policy.

Community housing tenants concerned that their landlord has assessed their income wrongly should consider asking for the assessment to be reviewed.