Selasa, 31 Agustus 2010

Social Housing Month

Long-time readers will remember that September is Social Housing Month on the Brown Couch, and this year we start off with an update on a story that was in the news last time: social housing rent increases.

(Senior Client Service Officer, Vladimir Dracula)

Housing NSW is about to do one of its regular reviews of tenants' incomes, and this time round it has got its eyes on that $30 per week increase in the pension that the Federal Government bestowed last year. At that time, after a campaign by pensioners and some indications by the Federal Treasurer of strong annoyance at the prospect of State Governments getting their hands on a slice of the largesse, the $30 was quarantined from inclusion in the assessment of households' incomes for the purposes of calculating rent subsidies.

But not anymore. So, from next month, a quarter of that $30, plus a couple of cost-of-living increases on top of it, will go to Housing NSW in rent – an additional $9 per week or so, for a single pensioner.

Ah well. It is easy to give Housing NSW a hard time about this, but we should spare a thought for pensioners in private rental housing. On my back-of-an-envelope calculation (based on a 'low-income' median rent in the September 09 quarter of $248 per week, and the rents component of the CPI increasing 3.1 per cent in the nine months since then), these renters' landlords have already taken their quarter of the $30 increase.

In 2007-08 there were about 117 000 private renter households across Australia whose income came solely from government payments, and who were paying more than 30 per cent of their incomes in rent. Forty-two thousand of them were paying more than 50 per cent.

UPDATE 22/9/10: Public housing pensioners, hang on to your pocketbooks. The Brown Couch's colleagues at the Older Persons Tenants Service have received advice from Housing NSW that the NSW State Government is reconsidering whether it will include the $30 increase in rent rebate calculations. They'll let us know what the Government decides.

Pensioners and others in private rental, keep shelling out as usual.

Rabu, 25 Agustus 2010

... and we're back

Sorry, Brown Couch readers, for the long time between posts – we've been stretched thin between preparations for the new Act (including a new Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010, in which we'll see a new standard form of residential tenancy agreement) and other bits and bobs that went on the backburner while we dealt with the Bill.

Looking on the bright side, at least by now everyone should be familiar with the new Act, and be able to tell a frankfurt from a mettwurst. The TU expects the new regime to commence early November or so – we'll keep you posted and have a look at some of its more important and interesting elements before then.

In other news, we've had a federal election. To the discredit of the major parties and – perhaps even more blameworthy – the Australian media, this was preceded by a campaign of very little brain: awfully short on substantial policies, even shorter on intelligent scrutiny and criticism. (At least one journalist noticed that there was scarcely a word said about housing affordability. For your info, Labor didn't have a single discrete housing policy – you can read some announcements here; the Liberals did have a policy, released the day before the poll – you can download it here; and here's the Greens' policy.)

What a contrast to now, where we find politicians, the media and the wider public engaged in an intelligent, reasonable and even a little inspiring discussion about the possibilities of our system of government.

('If you have a problem, if no one else can help....' From left to right: Rob 'Face' Oakeshott, Tony 'Hannibal' Windsor, Adam 'Murdoch' Bandt, and B A Katter.)

While we've got so many people apparently talking reasonably, here's a few people – all of them in the lower 50 per cent of the population by income – to think about and include in the conversation:

  • the 505 000 lower income households who rent privately and pay more than 30 per cent of their income in rent
  • the 179 000 lower income households who rent privately and pay more than 50 per cent of their income in rent
  • the 397 000 lower income households whose mortgage debt repayments consume more than 30 per cent of their income
  • the 193 000 lower income households whose mortgage debt repayments consume more than 50 per cent of their income.

(From the National Housing Supply Council)

And here's a few slogans for the next campaign, whenever that might be. Instead of, say, 'stop the boats', how about:

  • Stop housing stress
  • Stop house price inflation
  • Stop housing speculators
  • Stop evictions.