The ACT Council for Social Services (ACTCOSS) today condemned the ACT Government’s ruthless implementation of its public housing renewal programme.
In recent days, more than 300 ACT Housing tenants – including elderly people, people with chronic health conditions and people with disabilities – have been shocked to receive letters telling them they will have to vacate their properties.
Many have lived in their homes for decades.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said many residents were deeply distressed to suddenly receive notice to leave and that the ACT government had failed to ensure that proper assistance was in place to the tenants.
Dr Campbell said: ‘Sending these types of letters, without adequate support in place for tenants, is incredibly insensitive and cruel.
“ACTCOSS is calling on the Minister for Housing, MP Yvette Berry and ACT Housing to immediately review the scheme and provide independent legal and advocacy services to represent affected tenants,” Dr Campbell said.
The ACT Government says its Public Housing Growth and Renewal Program gives social housing tenants in Canberra the opportunity to move out of their homes to newer homes so that older sites can be sold off to generate income. income or be redeveloped into modern social housing.
Dr Campbell said: “ACTCOSS and other partners have provided advice to the Growing and Renewing program in good faith. Our expert advice to government included the need for tenants to have access to independent and well-resourced advocacy supports.
“However, this latest step suggests our advice has been ignored.
“Community organisations, including community legal services, have been inundated with calls from distressed tenants desperate for help to avoid eviction from their homes.
“It is unclear what criteria were used to determine which tenants received a letter. Many of these homes are perfectly adequate and have tenants who wish to remain in the property.
“However, we note that many properties are located on high value land.
“Some of these tenants have lived in their homes for more than 50 years and have invested large sums in maintenance and renovation. Some residents are elderly or disabled and are close to family and support networks,” Dr. Campbell said.
Dr Campbell said the notification process had been heartless and cruel with:
- no support offered to those receiving the letter other than a list of phone numbers
- tenants reporting that the Tenant Relocation Team hotline was not operational when they called; and
- no additional funding or resources are provided to community organizations charged with handling distressed tenant appeals.
Dr Campbell said: “The fact that the properties are being built on high value land which the ACT government wants to sell should not be a reason for ordering social housing tenants out of their homes.
“Many people involved are very vulnerable, including people with dementia or complex mental health issues.
“ACTCOSS, ACT Shelter and other community sector organizations had urged the ACT government to ensure that a proper process of engagement with tenants was established. This would have involved independent organizations offering support and advocacy so that the subject of possible relocation could be discussed in a respectful and safe manner.
“Obviously this advice was ignored,” concluded Dr. Campbell.