Encouraging people to "dob in" unauthorised public housing occupants is an ineffective strategy that demonises tenants while ignoring the real problems facing our public housing system, warns Greens MP and housing spokesperson Jan Barham.
"The NSW Government's announcement of an amnesty to declare unauthorised occupants in public housing is supported but calling for a 'dob in' campaign is unfair and disrespectful," Ms Barham said.
"The evidence has shown the failure of 'dob in' strategies. The experience with the Federal tip-off line for Centrelink fraud shows that we can expect a very small number of calls to be acted upon. An anonymous dob-in system can become bogged down with complaints that are often incorrect, unsubstantiated and in some cases vexatious," Ms Barham said.
Ms Barham said that although ensuring accurate occupancy information and rental assessments are reasonable goals, the focus on "rorters" risked demonising public housing tenants. "An amnesty to encourage tenants to provide Housing NSW with accurate information about the occupants of their homes is a useful approach, but the immediate call for people to report anyone they suspect of rorting the system implies fraud is a widespread problem among public housing tenants," Ms Barham said.
"I'm concerned that the public focus on fraud is a distraction from the major challenges the Government needs to tackle in providing housing support. There is a severe shortage of social housing stock across the state, thousands of people remain on waiting lists and most of the available allocations to public housing go to those with emergency or special needs.
"There is an ongoing need to expand the resources available to support people who are struggling to put a roof over their head. With federal cuts to single parent and other payments from their already low baseline, the pressure is only going to increase, and encouraging what might be many groundless accusations against existing tenants won't solve the housing crisis in New South Wales," Ms Barham said.
"Report unauthorised additional occupants living in public housing": http://www.housing.nsw.gov.au/
"Minimal calls to welfare fraud line investigated": http://www.theaustralian.com.
Housing NSW's Expected Waiting Times Overview - June 2012 shows 55,479 applicants on housing register, and expected waiting times throughout Sydney and many regions greater than 2 years and up to 10+ years: http://www.housingpathways.
Shelter NSW Housing Fact Sheet (reporting Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2009-10 data) shows 69.5% of new public housing allocations were to people assessed with a 'greatest need' and 64.3% assessed with a 'special need': http://www.shelternsw.org.au/
Jan Barham question re housing availability (Hansard 18/10/2012):
The Hon. JAN BARHAM: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Finance and Services, representing the Minister for Community Services. Will the Minister provide an update on the state of public housing tenants in relation to the announcement in June that more than 11,000 tenants who live alone in family-size homes will be asked to relocate to smaller dwellings? Has the program and consultation been completed and is there a report or process for the implementation of the relocation?
Answer (Hansard 14/11/2012):
The Hon. GREG PEARCE: On 18 October 2012 the Hon. Jan Barham asked me a question about the relocation of single public housing tenants occupying family sized homes. The Minister for Community Services has provided the following response:
Since 2011, Housing NSW has been working with a number of single people occupying four- and five-bedroom properties and encouraging them to relocate to smaller accommodation when a suitable home becomes available.
No tenants have been forced to relocate as part of this process.
Given the shortage of larger homes and the commensurately long waiting times for social housing, particularly for larger homes suitable for families with children, the New South Wales Government is investigating longer term policy options to address under-occupancy to improve services and lives for vulnerable families.