Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy New Year, Brown Couch readers

And we're back... well, almost. The Brown Couch will be running at holiday pace until the end of January.

The most intriguing news from the holiday period was the story of the tenants and their houses at Welfare Street, Homebush West.

The 12 properties were built in the inter-war years to house local abattoir workers and later passed into the hands of the Sydney Olympic Park Authority – along with some long-standing tenancies. Last year SOPA sold all the properties, by tender, to HBW No 1 Pty Ltd, part of the Centennial Property Group, which quickly arranged for each property to be on-sold individually – for almost double what it paid for them.

There were angry scenes at the auctions and some of the tenants are digging in – it appears that they may be protected tenants under the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1948, which affords greater protection against evictions (and rent increases) for the relatively few tenancies to which the Act still applies. Proceedings to determine the legal status of the tenants is on foot: the tenants are assisted by our colleagues at the Inner West Tenants Advice and Advocacy at Marrickville Legal Centre, which has a strong record in protected tenancy matters – read more about their work here. The other party is represented by Sevag Chalabian of Lands Legal – read more about his recent work here.

John Birmingham has written a comment on the story so far, and has captured nicely the disparity of the forces involved; he also ties in the other big news of the holiday period, which was the Federal Government's decision to defund the peak housing NGOs National Shelter, Homelessness Australia and the Community Housing Federation of Australia. Read the joint statement of those organisations here.

The decision to defund the housing NGOs comes as the Federal Government prepares White Papers both on the tax system and on the Australian Federation – with specific reference to government responsibilities for housing and homelessness services. The defunding is a rotten decision: bad for housing policy, bad for the millions of people who need housing policy to work better, and bad for our democracy.

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