Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 April 2021) . . Page.. 971 ..
matter. It seems that Housing ACT can just do whatever it likes. The provision of public housing is a social welfare service to accommodate people who are unable to access a place to live in the private sector and who, in many cases, can only afford a fraction of market level rent. But this does not mean that we should treat public housing tenants as second class citizens or with contempt when it comes to ensuring they have a place that is fit for purpose and free of health and safety risks.
Based on the hundreds of conversations I have had with tenants on the ground and on the dozens of site visits that I have undertaken, I am seeing public housing tenants treated with absolute contempt by this government. This Labor-Greens government clearly sees public housing tenants as second-class citizens. That sounds like a really strong thing to say, but I cannot remove myself from that conclusion, based on the many, many conversations I have had.
So the question is: what exactly is the government’s obligation to its tenants? Surely, there is a moral and ethical obligation on the government as a landlord to ensure tenants are not living in something structurally unsafe or infested with some sort of contamination that makes the place a health risk or genuinely unliveable? But we have evidence to the contrary.
The minister at least gives the appearance of taking these matters seriously. Housing ACT and its parent directorate wrote a very rigorous contract that is very specific in protecting tenants’ rights to a healthy and safe living environment. For example, the contract describes responsive repairs and maintenance as repairs that need to be undertaken as a matter of priority where there are possible impacts on health, safety, welfare and amenity of the tenant.
Other contractual provisions are quite time specific when it comes to health and safety risks. For example, urgent issues regarding immediate risks are to be fixed within four hours. Priority repairs are to be resolved by 6 pm the next day. Repairs that are not urgent but could develop into a health or security risk must be resolved within five calendar days and less urgent items must be fixed within 20 calendar days. Now this is just not happening. We all know it is not happening, and that is the reason I have brought this motion to the chamber.
Housing ACT’s own data suggests there is a bit of a problem, and perhaps more than just a bit. According to the last annual report 2,700 complaints of all types were lodged with Housing ACT. Of these, a little over 1,100 related to maintenance or property conditions, and that equals 42 per cent of total complaints. There were also another 350 complaints on tenant-responsible maintenance. Here we should acknowledge there are some things the tenant ought to reasonably do for themselves. But 42 per cent of complaints relating to maintenance suggests that something must be amiss.
I will give some examples of where people have come to my office for help. I saw this case firsthand in Tuggeranong: the ceiling of a property had collapsed due to water damage; the lighting cut out whenever it rained; the kitchen, bathroom and laundry were in a very poor condition; and the hot water system had failed. When requests for help were lodged, responsiveness appeared less than satisfactory and the family was