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Alex is committed to government transparency and accountability; protecting the natural and urban environments, open space and Sydney’s unique heritage; retaining inner city social and affordable housing; the humane treatment of animals; improving transport options; and fairness and equality for the LGBTI communities.
 

Housing Legislation Amendment Bill 2016

(Second Reading Debate, 19 October 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

The Housing Legislation Amendment Bill will help the government transfer the tenancy management of about 18,000 public housing properties to community housing providers to bring the proportion of community housing to 35 per cent of the state’s social housing.

The Housing Legislation Amendment Bill will help the government transfer the tenancy management of about 18,000 public housing properties to community housing providers to bring the proportion of community housing to 35 per cent of the state’s social housing.

Housing in four regions will be transferred as part of this process and while these regions are outside of my electorate, I make a brief contribution on the bill because it could be used as a model for future transfers in other regions and my electorate has significant social housing communities that could potentially be affected.

The bill does two things: it provides for concurrent lease arrangements between the Land and Housing Corporation and a community housing provider, and the community housing provider and the tenant; and it creates a new local register for community housing providers which do not meet the criteria of the national register.

To date, tenants have generally been given the choice of whether to remain in the public system or have their tenancies transferred to a community housing provider. This has been important for tenants who have a basic continuing tenancy agreement from before the 2005 changes because they would likely be worse off if their lease were replaced with a new fixed term social housing lease.

Because it would not be possible to provide choice to tenants in a wholesale stock transfer, a system of concurrent leases has been adopted so that the government can transfer buildings, estates or areas to the community housing sector while maintaining tenants’ existing lease conditions.

The concurrent lease arrangements will ensure that tenants will not lose any rights: they will be charged the same rent, the length of their lease will be the same, their rights and responsibilities will be the same and tenant eligibility will be based on the same social housing waiting list.

This will help ensure that no tenant will be worse off. Of course it cannot guarantee that everything will remain consistent for transferred tenants. Different social housing landlords will have different tenancy management policies and approaches and this may affect tenants’ experience of their home. This could be for better or for worse however I note that social housing tenant satisfaction surveys continue to indicate high levels of satisfaction with community housing providers, often higher than public providers.

One area that is unclear is that of maintenance responsibilities. The Sydney electorate has had buildings with some dwellings managed by NSW Housing and some by community housing providers. In the past it has been difficult to work out who has responsibility for the management of common areas. While this would not be a problem in a stock transfer, there is a broader question about who has responsibility for maintenance in a transfer and whether in some instances the community housing provider will mediate between tenants and the government to get repairs, adding bureaucracy and delays.

Creating a new local registration system for community housing providers makes sense because local Aboriginal land councils should be able to access the scheme. However, tenant advocate groups want to see the detail to ensure that provisions do not broaden eligibility to for-profit providers. I understand this is not the intention of the government.

Given tenant satisfaction and the ability for community housing providers to increase funding for social housing by attracting rent assistance, there is no question that the government should support growing the community housing sector, and continue to look for innovative solutions to provide housing for those in need.

I support the bill.

See Hansard for full debate HERE.