Monday, February 24, 2014

Saving the day by paying more to stay...

It's been nearly six months since the vacant bedroom charge began to bite tenants across NSW public housing.

The idea was that charging extra rent for the spare room would 'encourage' tenants to downsize, allowing HNSW to give the roomier place to a more needy recipient. But from what we've heard, many tenants are paying more to stay put. Housing NSW won't be getting their hands on the lion's share of vacant bedrooms - but they do stand to make a few quid out of this caper, all the same...

Spare bedrooms - they always seem so roomy!

As soon as the vacant bedroom charge was launched, a handful of households - around a hundred of them - immediately put their hands up for relocation. Of these, just over a quarter have already been moved. Then there were the households who were already waiting to transfer to a smaller home. A 'small number' of these have now been moved, too. In fairness, we have to acknowledge this - it amounts to maybe 30 or 40 spare bedrooms being brought back into circulation...

But the big news is that of the 250 or so households that have actually been approached to relocate, only about 10% have agreed to consider it. The rest have decided to pay the extra $20 or $30 per week in order to stay where they live. We expect this was a tough choice for many - we can't help but wonder at the number of tenants now enduring incredible hardship in order to remain in their homes. How sustainable will their decision be?

Well, we hope they can hang in there, because they're doing us all a favour.

When it was first announced, Minister Goward said there were over 17,000 public housing households who were holding up the social housing waiting list by hanging onto a spare bedroom instead of moving to a smaller home. HNSW have since said they won't approach all of these households, and we know that some have already agreed to relocate... but let's imagine they've got in mind another 15,000 households to approach.

On their current rate of success, HNSW might end up unlocking as many as 1,500 larger homes with vacant bedrooms (pending somewhere to move the occupant/s to), and 13,500 households paying the extra charge. That would mean taking in an extra $270,000 in rent each week, if every household were paying the $20 weekly rate. It would be $405,000 per week at the $30 rate. Of course, the actual figure will be somewhere in between.

Reflect on that for a moment. Thousands of low income tenants, paying extra to stay in their homes, could see HNSW net somewhere between $14million and $21million per year in additional rent collections. We look forward to a run of articles in the tabloid papers expressing gratitude for this very generous contribution.

But what will HNSW do with all that spare money?

One thing they might consider is building a few larger properties to help house all those living in over-crowded conditions... and perhaps a couple of smaller ones, too, so those who have agreed to relocate can make the move and free up that vacant bedroom all the sooner. Because if the Minister really wants to get that waiting list moving, there's simply no better way than building more houses.

In any case, we should be clear - tenants opting to pay more to stay should be applauded for making this difficult choice. We live in hope that FACS and HNSW will find a use for their new pool of spare money that will be equally worthy of our admiration.

Fingers and toes crossed.


  1. I have been waiting 12 years on the priority transfer list. Housing nsw always come up with an excuse, and i am a single person in a 3 bedroom house trying to downsize due to heath problems they tell you anything just to get you out of there office. not happy with housing n.s.w.

    1. Wow. 12 years on the list... and still nowhere to move you to. Incredible, but sadly believable.


Please keep your comments PC - that is, polite and civilised. Comments may be removed at the discretion of the blog administrator; no correspondence will be entered into. Comments that are abusive of individual persons, or are sexist, racist or otherwise offensive will be removed, so don’t bother leaving them.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.