Responding to the latest reporting today on the NSW Government’s Local Allocation Strategy which shows that hundreds of innocent people may be excluded from accessing public housing in the inner city, Greens NSW Housing and Homelessness spokesperson Jenny Leong has questioned the motives of such a move.
“Given the recent fudging of the public housing waiting list numbers by the department, we are calling on the Minister for Family and Community Services to immediately reassure the public that this latest ‘strategy’ isn’t a cynical ploy to further reduce the waiting list without actually housing anyone.
“It is clear that the potential numbers of people captured by this punitive policy are miniscule, so why is the Minister forcing hundreds of people on the public housing waiting list to consent to their police records being accessed?
“The idea that you can be dropped off the waiting list for certain areas, after having been assessed and approved for housing in those areas, simply because you don’t respond to a letter is disgraceful.
“If the Minister was held to the same measure, she would have lost her job a long time ago, as we know of many constituents who have not received a reply from her or her office in relation to concerns raised.
“This allocation strategy sets a bad precedent by extending punishment beyond the judicial system and approaching a very specific challenge in our community with a scatter-gun approach.
“It remains unclear as to whether the Attorney General or the Premier is aware of this significant shift in approach which is just the latest unbelievable policy move by a FACS Minister who previously supported increasing police powers to move on homeless people in Martin Place as opposed to actually housing them.”
“We appreciate that public housing tenants need to feel safe but introducing a discriminatory policy of perpetual punishment for people with drug convictions is not the solution – surely of all departments that should understand the need for drug and alcohol support and rehabilitation, it is the Department of Family and Community Services.”
- The Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward MP, signed off on a trial Local Housing Allocation strategy in August 2017 in partnership with the NSW police.
- This ‘strategy’ will see people on public and social housing waiting lists that have prior drug convictions from the past 5 years, being denied housing in 77% of the available public housing stock in Sydney’s inner suburbs, namely Glebe, Waterloo, Redfern and Surry Hills.
- The roll out of this strategy has raised many questions and concerns, including issues of privacy, a lack of clarity around appeals, as well as communication to people on the public housing waiting list which significantly broadens the scope of the ‘strategy’ signed off on by the Minister.
- An initial letter was sent to around 3000 people currently on the waiting list for housing in the inner city in February, the majority of whom wouldn’t be affected by this policy and contained factual errors or omissions about the specific nature of the ‘strategy’.
- As a result of the concerns raised by our office and other sector agencies the Minister’s office agreed to update a Factsheet posted on the NSW Housing website to correct some issues (link to Factsheet here).
- It is understood that a further letter, sent to approximately 300 people at the top of the waiting list was sent this week.
- A failure to respond to this latest letter requesting those on the waiting list to consent to a police check means that they will be automatically removed from consideration for housing in these designated areas (Redfern, Waterloo, Surry Hills and Glebe) resulting in people being locked out of housing in 77% of the inner city.
- Research from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research indicates only 11 people from the four selected inner city suburbs have been charged with drug manufacture in the last 5 years, while the numbers charged with drug dealing are higher (272 have been convicted of drug dealing in the suburbs in the past five years, according to the data) this figure does not specify the level or severity of the supply.
- Latest FACS figures showing a reduction in public housing waiting lists, however they provide a qualification saying that these numbers remove those applications that are temporarily suspended. This is a change to the counting, not a real change in waiting list numbers.