Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Public housing rent payments: one size does not fit all

Australian Housing Ministers met last week to discuss housing policy: you can read their communique here. One of the smaller items on the agenda caught our eye: the 'Housing Payment Deduction Scheme', under which rent payments will be deducted directly from public housing tenants' income, before the money even hits their bank accounts.

A scheme like this, applied on a compulsory basis to all public housing tenants, is not a good idea.

It might sound like a good idea to the Housing Ministers, because it promises to reduce arrears. And lots of public housing tenants think it's a good idea too – so good, in fact, that they already do it, voluntarily, through Housing NSW's Rent Deduction Scheme.

But there are people for whom this sort of scheme doesn't fit. For example, we've an acquaintance who lives in public housing who has a few health problems. When he gets paid, he doesn't use the money to pay his rent straight away: he uses it to pay one of his doctors. Then he goes to Medicare, gets paid by them, pays another doctor, goes back to Medicare and gets paid by them again. Then he pays his rent.

This orderly process of payment and repayment would get stuffed right up if a Housing Payment Deduction Scheme got in and took the money first.

There's bound to be other examples where individual circumstances make the compulsory deductions a bad fit. Maybe the operational policy for the scheme could be so devised to anticipate them all, and provide for housing officers to make adjustments in those circumstances... maybe.

Or it might be more efficient and effective to let each person judge for themselves whether the scheme fits their circumstances and whether it suits them to use it. Lots of public housing tenants have already judged yes, it suits them – that's great. And that's probably as far as it should go.


  1. Couldn't agree more. Mark O'Brien TUV

  2. Every single time I've had my rent deducted directly from my Centrelink payments it has screwed up in some way and Housing has deducted more than they should have at some point.

    When this happens, the only option Housing offers you is paying less or no rent until the credit is used up - which doesn't help at all when you've been left seriously short of funds to live off.

    Also, while tenants can cancel rent deductions from the Centrelink website, they cannot set them up themselves (unlike normal Centrepay deductions). So if a tenant cancels a rent deduction due to an error on Housing's part, they need to go into Housing in order to set up a new deduction (which will be processed immediately regardless of what start date the tenant has authorised on the form).

    Obviously, compulsory rent deduction also causes issues for those with casual jobs. If a fortnight's rent is taken out of a reduced Centrelink payment, a household can have little left to survive on until wages are received (and if a casual employee receives no shifts that week there'll be no income).

  3. I am of the belief that the ENTIRE system needs a review. The onus of Govt to provide BLANKET 25% to 30 for low income earners is a THEMATIC scheme that is irrational and highly ANTIQUATED. Govt housing is now at a luxury. Affordable housing is a mess. LETS PROVIDE A SCHEME that's beneficial to the CONSUMER directly. AND RELEVANT to the AUSTRALIAN welfare consumer. This current system should focus on intrinsic motivation of housing linked to LIFE programs not SICKNESS and income deception that may be perpetrated for many and varied reasons. SLIDING SCALE CAPPED MARKET RENTS for specific DOMICILE codes eg. A to Z would show tenants that 200 dollars is their limit in a level E domicile. So move there for a 2 year cap and then either move to see level AB domicile at 350 cap and work for 3 years. That is your 5 year plan. If something didn't go as planned due to medical or other you can reduce to see level M domicile at all MINIMUM cap till your situation is managed. Housing privilege at current levels invokes complacency and promotes learned helplessness, social losses and gods waiting room. LETS GET SMARTER carrots taste nicer than Big Sticks ... the system cannot sustain. THE TRIPARTITE DEAL failed I'm the UK. If you want Centerlink support you are obligated to meet activity approvals. HOUSING should be a HAMMOCK not an ENTRENCHMENT of a demise. LETS SHOW CLEVERER COMMUNITY !

  4. Housing deduction schemes such as the proposed Social Security Legislation Amendment (Public Housing Tenants’ Support) Act 2013 are likely to have both beneficial and negative outcomes, however those outcomes will vary person by person. Although this proposed bill seeks to make positive changes with the aim to eliminate the rates of homelessness and the eviction rates of people in arrears that are recipients of income support, it may have many negative implications. These negative implications could; reduce an individual’s autonomy, disempower individual’s, reduce self esteem and may actually adversely increase the dependency of individuals’ who feel may then feel powerless to manage an income and their living expenses. Furthermore, this proposed legislation amendment appears void of social justice principals which makes this scheme appear to be fixated with reducing debt rather than actively aiming to prevent the rates of homelessness of income support recipients. I agree with many of the views expressed by other members in this forum, in believing that surely there must be a lot more that can be done before scraping at the bottom of the barrel to introduce another social security amendment. How about making more use of early intervention services? Or better providing support, empowerment and education to income support recipients, opposed to making the recipients feel as though they are not capable of managing their own affairs? From reading the exposure draft of this proposed bill, I am led to believe that individual’s should not be subjected to housing deduction schemes, but can nominate for payments to be deducted for housing if it suits their own circumstances. As illness, disability and other circumstances can further complicate an individual’s financial stability and affect their wellbeing, it is not fair to subject people to these blanket solutions which do not cater to individual needs.

  5. how if im on a benefit and work for a short casual period ,will it affect my rent
    cause it takes weeks to process a rent rebate agreement and if i work for a week and then dont work again for a while they will keep taking twice my normal rent leaving me with no money to live off for weeks ?


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