Monday, April 8, 2013

Fixing things with the NSW Land & Housing Corporation

A short while ago we noted that the Land & Housing Corporation intends to 'review' the maintenance of public housing in New South Wales, before entering into new maintenance contracts in 2014. It looks as though this review is already under way.

That's good news, because there are certainly some problems with the way things are currently done... but it remains to be seen whether the Land & Housing Corporation will ask itself any of the right questions if it wants to patch together a half decent system - or better yet, fix the thing once and for all.

Last month, the Corporation released an Industry Briefing Paper outlining a new approach to contracting for repairs and maintenance. This paper was more of an attempt to garner support for change from the private interests they hope to contract with, than the teasing out of policies that might reduce tenants' potential repair and maintenance frustrations.

It gave us a couple of insights into what the Corporation is hoping to achieve with its next round of contracts - such as changing the pricing mechanisms for responsive repairs, putting tenants in more direct contact with contractors, and giving contractors greater responsibility to identify and complete repairs and maintain public housing properties.

Don't get us wrong - some these are potential game-changers in the quest for a better system, at least for some of the problems that the Corporation's tenants currently face. But, after looking through that paper a couple of times, we're none the wiser as to how the Corporation hopes to minimise or avoid disputes with tenants over the urgency of repairs, and the quality of repairs once they've been done.

This is a pretty key issue. In the last couple of years there has been a marked increase in the number of tenants' applications to the Social Housing Division of the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal, for orders that repairs be properly carried out. Sometimes, even when a tenant gets the repair order they have applied for, those repairs are still not properly seen to...

It may be that the Land & Housing Corporation supposes it can fix these problems by changing the nature of its contracts. Or, it may be that they just haven't given it that much thought. It would be interesting to know which. But that's another problem with this briefing paper... it's all been conducted behind the relative translucency of the NSW e-tendering website.

We're waiting, with bated breath, to see what the Corporation has to say to its tenants about new approaches to repairs and maintenance. Or, for that matter, to the community organisations who frequently work with them.

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