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Families stuck in public housing queue

Thursday, 28th January, 2016

Public housing tenants Antonia Bugmy and Keith Russell. Keith’s sister moved into the brick house in Creedon Street four months ago after a stint on the waiting list. Public housing tenants Antonia Bugmy and Keith Russell. Keith’s sister moved into the brick house in Creedon Street four months ago after a stint on the waiting list.

By Erica Visser

 The city’s public housing is under strain with more than 100 local families stuck on the waiting list.

The local provider, Compass Housing, said the blowout was “a big problem” while welcoming the government’s announcement of a 10-year reform program for the state’s public housing sector.

It was hoped the plan would help combat the strain by providing support or incentives to tenants to leave public housing.

Compass says the 200 public housing properties it manages in Broken Hill were just the “tip of the iceberg” with a constant, lengthy waiting list.

“NSW current has almost 60,000 households on the waiting list, and families frequently spending a decade or more waiting for a home. That sort of backlog is not going to go away without serious investment in new stock,” said Compass Housing’s Managing Director, Greg Budworth.

“We are also strongly supportive of the focus on a holistic approach to housing in which health, education, justice and community services all have a prominent role to play. 

“Due to the incentives in place, it’s easy for social housing to become generational rather than aspirational. Breaking the cycle of disadvantage requires more than just the provision of shelter and we’re delighted to see the NSW Government on the same page.” 

The organisation also came out in support of a plan to automatically deduct rent from the welfare benefits of tenants.

The aim was to “increase stability of payments from tenants, with a view to preventing homelessness as a result of rental arrears.” 

Mr Budworth noted that rental arrears was a problem for all landlords but that it was not a huge problem with Broken Hill’s public housing.

“Arrears levels for Compass tenants in Broken Hill are very low (under 2.5 per cent of total income) and Compass staff work closely with tenants to ensure that any financial issues are managed quickly and before large debts are accumulated,” he said.

“Compass is broadly supportive of automatic rent deductions as a way of simplifying rent payments for tenants, however, would require further detail about the government’s proposal to make the process compulsory before commenting further.”

The company looked forward to working with the government on the bold plan, which also aims to make a greater commitment to educational and building programs, such as those launched through the new 123 Hub in Creedon Street.

“While it’s still very early days, this strategy is exactly the sort of forward thinking approach the sector has been waiting for,” Mr Budworth said.

Public housing tenant, Keith Russell, has been living in a Creedon Street house for three to four months.

Keith said there had so far been no problems with the house, which was equipped with utilities including air conditioning.

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