Thursday, June 27, 2013

Choose your poison...

Yesterday we were hit with the news that the NSW State Government will start imposing an additional charge on 'under-occupying' tenants in public housing who refuse to relocate to a smaller home.  Essentially, the government is asking tenants to make a choice: pay more to stay, or move away and pay the same.

No matter how you look at it, both of these cups have clearly been poisoned. If you choose the cup on the left, you'll pay a financial cost. If you choose the cup on the right, you'll pay a social cost.

As we discussed yesterday, opting to stay and pay could leave you on as little as $21 a day after rent. For many people, this is no choice at all. They will be moved out of established homes, and into new neighbourhoods. Some will adapt better than others.

A large number of affected tenants are likely to be older, having taken up a tenancy in a large family home many years ago. Now that the children have grown up and moved out, they might find themselves described as "under-occupying". They might have a sentimental attachment to their home that makes it difficult to let go. They might have relationships within the locale that will be difficult to live without. Or they might have particular medical or care needs that they can only access because of their current proximity to the service providers they use.

It's important that we understand just how this change in policy will be applied, and who it will be applied to. To that end, Housing NSW has produced a factsheet, which is as good a place as any to start - but it still leaves a couple of questions unanswered. The Tenants' Union of NSW, along with a number of other non-government organisations, attended a briefing yesterday at the offices of Housing NSW where some of those questions were addressed.

Here's what we know:

- Tenants who ask or agree to transfer to a smaller property will have their transfer considered as a 'priority'. This means they'll be in competition for properties with other priority applicants for housing, rather than waiting until there are no priority applicants in front of them on the waiting list.

- Tenants who ask or agree to transfer to a smaller property will be given two offers of alternative housing. If they refuse both, they will have their rental subsidy recalculated and will end up paying more in order to stay where they are. (The 'reasonableness' of these offers will be subject to appeal.)

- Tenants who had already applied to transfer to a smaller property before June 25th 2013 will not have their rental subsidies recalculated if they refuse two offers of alternative housing.

- Tenants who refuse to go onto the waiting list to transfer to a smaller property, when asked, will have their rental subsidy recalculated and will end up paying more to stay where they are.

- Tenants should not be asked to transfer to a smaller property before September 2013.

- Tenants should only be asked to transfer to a smaller property if they are under-occupying according to their entitlement. This means that if you have been approved to rent a three bedroom dwelling because you have part-time custody of children, but for some of the time you live alone, you should not be asked to give up your home. If you are not sure what your current entitlement is, you should contact your local Housing NSW office to discuss.

- Tenants should only be asked to transfer to a smaller property within the allocation zone for which they were originally approved. Tenants may elect to transfer to another allocation zone, but their request will be considered against the level of demand for social housing in the allocation zone they wish to transfer into.

- These changes only apply to tenants in properties owned by the Land & Housing Corporation, and managed by Housing NSW. They do not apply to tenancies in Aboriginal Housing Office properties, or tenancies managed by a Community Housing landlord.

No doubt there will be more questions, as news and discussion about this policy change makes its way through various networks. We encourage anyone with questions or concerns about this policy change to contact us for further discussion - we might not be able to give an immediate response, but we can take your questions directly to Housing NSW and seek their answers.

There are several ways that you can contact us:

1. Leave a comment on this blog
2. Find us on Facebook or Twitter
2. Send us an email or give us a call - find our contact details here.


  1. I have a client who lives alone in a 2 bedroom property which has been adapted for people with a disabiity (wheelchair access, ramps, etc). Will he be forced to pay a subsidy? He would have to transfer to a one bedroom disability appropriate home. If there had been one available, he would already be in it.

  2. Hi Anonymous
    Housing NSW policy on how many bedrooms a person is eligible for has not been changed, and can be found here:


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