Monday, January 11, 2016

Things to look out for in 2016

Welcome back to the Brown Couch for what we expect will be another big year.

Here are some of the things we'll be watching out for in 2016...

1. The current review of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010
We spent quite a bit of time talking about this over the last half of last year - and thanks to the NSW Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong, a few people spent the holiday period talking about it as well.
NSW Fair Trading's discussion paper is still open for comment, so if you haven't already put pen to paper and sent in your thoughts about renting in New South Wales, please do so soon. They'll be taking submissions until January 29th. If you're stuck for something to say, have a look at the TU's Quick Guide to the review - available here.
Fair Trading will produce a report on the Act, based on its discussion paper, for the responsible Minister to table in Parliament. This must be done before the middle of the year, so we'll know soon enough where the NSW Government stands on stability, liveability and affordability for the one-in-three of us who live in rented homes.

2. Sensible discussion about tax reform in a federal election year
Our views on tax reform are long held and oft stated - we'll be pretty disappointed if 2016 delivers an increased GST at the expense of more sensible changes to our tax regime.
NSW Opposition Leader, Labor's Luke Foley, has recently said he'd consider supporting an increase of the GST from 10% to 15% in order to fund schools and hospitals, and this puts him at odds with his Federal counterpart. If we're going to see a federal election based on tax reform - which has always looked likely - we'd like see the discussion re-focus on winding back the generous tax concessions we give to amateur landlords.
As for schools and hospitals - we'd like to see those funded, too. Perhaps the NSW Opposition Leader could take another look at our land tax proposals, rather than call for a bigger tax on consumption, while on his quest for a new source of revenue.

3. Implementation of last year's "antisocial behaviour" reforms for social housing tenancies
We spent a bit of time talking about these reforms last year, too - including our discovery that the legislative changes commenced just in time for the summer holidays.
The laws are now live - which means the Tribunal is already bound to consider them - but we're still waiting for FACS Housing and other social housing landlords to finalise the policies that will determine how and when they will use them. We're expecting FACS Housing to finalise their policies towards the end of February, but we're not sure where most of the 30 or so registered community housing landlords that might use these laws are up to. Let us know if you come across anything.
We'll be keeping a particular eye on the use of "one strike evictions" and the mandatory 28 day limit for vacant possession orders whenever a social housing tenancy is terminated in the Tribunal. The legislative provisions relating to these policies must be reviewed between December 2017 and December 2018, so we'll be keeping tabs.

4. Developments in the social housing portfolio "strategy", particularly as it relates to estate redevelopment and urban renewal
2015 ended with a spate of announcements about increasing the social housing portfolio in New South Wales. We've covered these on our Clearing House blog - with news so far concerning Macquarie Park, Glebe, and Waterloo; along with more general announcements about the way social construction is to be delivered through Communities Plus and the Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF).
We're expecting further announcements about the SAHF early this year, and we're also hearing rumours that a report from the Social Housing discussion paper of late 2014 might finally be released. There's a high likelihood that this will lead to further divestment in tenancy management by the NSW Government, with more tenanted properties to be transferred from FACS Housing's watch to registered community housing landlords. We'll have to wait and see...
In any case, the growth of community housing landlords is set to continue. We'll be keeping an eye on reports from the Registrar of Community Housing's office, as the first compliance checks under the National Regulatory Code start to happen.

5. New repairs and maintenance contracts for public housing tenancies, and a Parliamentary Inquiry into their management
Late last year we mentioned that the NSW Legislative Assembly's Public Accounts Committee is conducting an inquiry into the management of public housing repairs and maintenance contracts - submissions close in early February
We also mentioned that the Land & Housing Corporation was in the process of changing the way it does business with repairs and maintenance contractors. We now understand that new contracts are ready to roll, and we expect to hear more about this soon. But there are many problems with the way public housing is maintained, and these new contracts alone won't fix everything. The Parliamentary Inquiry could produce some important insights into how this system functions, and how it could be improved.

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