COMMUNITY HOUSING PROVIDERS
PRIVATISATION BY STEALTH
Action for Public Housing opposes the transfer of the management of public housing to community housing providers because:
- It is a form of privatisation of pubic assets
- It is another step in the NSW Government’s plans to divest itself of all responsibility for public housing
- It removes from tenants any right to choice of landlord
- Community housing providers are promoted as being more efficient than Housing NSW but they are replicating the government’s system, for maintenance for example.
- Housing NSW has clear policies controlling its powers over things like terminations and appeals. Community housing providers have a limited set of mandatory policies but outside these can adopt their own rules.
- Rents are usually enough to cover maintenance and wages but not fundamental repairs or the development or purchase of new properties by the private provider. This creates pressure for Community housing providers to select fewer social and more affordable tenants.
- At present title to land and buildings remains with the Land and Housing Corporation but community housing providers will pressure to get title to use as leverage for loans to expand their portfolios.
The Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC), an agency of the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), is one of the largest providers of social housing in the world. The LAHC owns the land, buildings and other assets within the social housing portfolio. Housing NSW directly manages approximately 122,000 properties.
As at June 2016, there were 82 registered not-for-profit community housing organisations, including housing associations, housing co-operatives, churches and other community organisations.
Housing NSW has already transferred the management of around 28,000 public housing properties to community housing landlords since about 2008.
Community housing providers manage around 28,000 properties which accounts for approximately 19 per cent of the social housing in New South Wales. This will rise to 32 per cent with management transfers to take place in 2017).
The NSW Government has announced the transfer of a further 14 per cent of public housing properties to management by community housing providers. 18,000 properties will be transferred as whole of location transfers and 3,000 properties will move into the community housing sector in the next three years.
Properties will be transferred to community housing providers in the Shoalhaven, the Mid North Coast, Hunter New England (excluding the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie local government areas) and Northern Sydney, excluding the Ivanhoe Estate.
The NSW Government has passed legislation top make the transfer of management to community housing providers automatic. Tenants will no longer have an option to choose who they would like to manage their tenancy. Only housing managed by community housing providers will be available. Housing NSW will no longer manage tenancies or applications for social housing in these areas. If tenants wish to move into a tenancy provided by FACS, they will need to apply to transfer their tenancy to another area.
It appears that LAHC also intends to privatise its responsibility for repairs and maintenance. The community housing providers will be responsible for maintenance, while the LAHC will retain responsibility for ‘structural repairs and strategic portfolio management decisions’.
Community Housing landlords set their rent in a way that requires tenants to claim Commonwealth Rent Assistance which is paid directly to the landlord. Despite this there will still not be enough money in the sector to provide adequate public housing to meet the need. The needs of public housing tenants would be better served if Commonwealth Rental Assistance reverted to being a grant paid to the State Government for the purpose of building more public housing.