Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 25 November 2021) . . Page.. 3748 ..
All of these are extremely positive initiatives, and they enhance housing and homelessness services. We commend the spending in that area. But not all is wine and roses in this space, Mr Assistant Speaker. No doubt we are all painfully aware of areas where services could be better.
Our public housing population is not inconsiderable, with around 10,600 tenants and about 21,500 residents. Many of these people are in precarious circumstances of one form or another, and many have what is described as complex needs or have a range of vulnerabilities. I am not speculating here; at any one time, my staff are dealing with around 30 constituent cases. We always have about 30 on the go. Some of them are quite distressing cases—most of them are—because, by the time they get to us, people have exhausted other avenues. As opposed to some of the other portfolio spaces that we deal in, these people are facing problems that affect them every single minute of their day. I dread the thought of what ministers and other MLAs have on their plate in this space.
Going back to the issue of a safe living environment, there is a useful guide on what tenants can expect from their landlord or lessor. The lessors’ and tenants’ obligations are stipulated pretty clearly in the Commissioner for Social Housing’s tenancy agreement. There are a few clauses in this document that are near and dear to my heart and my daily workload in relation to making sure that tenants have reasonable access to a safe living environment. I will quote clause 55(1) of the agreement. It says:
The lessor must maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair having regard to their condition at the commencement of the tenancy agreement.
The maintenance contract with Programmed facility maintenance sets out a graded series of response times for repairs and maintenance, with a limit of four hours where there is an immediate risk to health, safety or security. For slightly less serious threats, a response is required by 6 pm the next day, with a five-day response where repairs are not urgent but the problem could develop into a health, safety or security risk. All other requirements need to be attended to within 20 calendar days.
These contractual requirements appear sensible and appropriate. They ensure that critical issues will be rectified pretty quickly. The problem is that my in-tray is continuously filled with stark examples of where the contractor is breaching or failing to fulfill its service performance obligations. I will not be the only one to have a string of emails about this. I know that Minister Vassarotti and Minister Berry also have emails.
Without naming the complainants, let me give this chamber some examples. “Garbage and other items are frequently dumped throughout the common areas and regularly stink out the building,” says one tenant. “It has been reported to Housing by residents that the ceiling is bowed, with water constantly leaking and mould growing out of control.” Another says, “Why do Programmed and Housing never fulfil their promises?” Another says, “There is a huge part of the ceiling in the dining room outside two of the bedrooms that has collapsed and it is like a waterfall when it rains.” Another says, “It is disgustingly unclean and tenants do not feel safe.” Another says,