Page 482 - Week 02 - Thursday, 25 February 1993

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Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. The evidence I have compiled also shows a contempt for the lifestyles of decent Housing Trust tenants through what I term "selective compassion" for a minority. One hardly knows where to begin in addressing this issue but some facts might be a good place to start. Significantly, the information I am about to provide was given by the Housing Trust itself, so I do not believe that anybody can argue its accuracy.

The first point is: The Housing Trust at December 1992 had a waiting list of 7,662 applicants, of whom some 2,357 were in private rental housing and receiving the benefit of rent relief. Where are the remaining 5,305 applicants? I do not accept that they are all staying with friends or relatives but I do suspect, despite the Housing Trust's assurances, that many, if not most, are living interstate and thus are ineligible for ACT Housing Trust accommodation. The truth, according to the Minister, is even stranger and, I might add, renders the applicants just as ineligible. I say this because, according to a letter from the Minister on 19 February 1993, these 5,305 Housing Trust applicants who are on the waiting list but are not receiving rent relief "are either managing in the private rental market without the assistance of rent relief, are not interested in applying for rent relief or are ineligible for such assistance".

What then are these 5,000-odd applicants doing on the trust waiting list where to be accommodated they must satisfy a means test? Are they there deliberately to inflate the trust waiting list in the hope of increased funding and to appear to establish the need to extend the trust empire further? Are they there simply because the waiting list has not been culled recently? I would remind members that 2,519 applications were withdrawn in the 12 months to October 1991. Are they there simply because it is too easy to register? We do not know, but I submit that an inquiry would find out.

The second point is: Why are 10,661 current and vacated accounts at 13 January 1993 in arrears, including 29 owing between $5,000 and $9,999 and a further 1,531 owing between $1,000 and $4,999? How can a trust tenant run up arrears of over $5,000? More to the point, how can 29 tenants achieve this dubious honour? It adds up to $145,000. How could the trust incur total rent arrears of $4.5m in 1991-92, of which $2.4m was in what are euphemistically and deliberately termed "vacated accounts"? This is also known as "skipped town" or "written-off rent" - rent lost to the trust and to this community.

Despite a new $3m computer that the trust has, we do not know why this appalling failure to chase up rents occurred, any more than we know why in December 1992 some 5,975 trust tenants - or 49.47 per cent of tenants - were in arrears. Within a matter of weeks, by 13 January 1993, that figure had climbed to 7,112 or 59.9 per cent of tenants, yet only 1,553 of these had entered into rental arrears agreements. What were the other thousands of tenants in arrears doing? Enjoying Bankcard?

Neither do we know why the Housing Trust writes a letter to tenants in arrears - many of them, I would remind you, low income tenants - only after 28 days, when the private sector chases up outstanding rents within a week. Why is there no adequate procedure to prevent people defaulting on payments? In 1991-92 only $2,600 of $162,195 - the total amount outstanding between 1989 and 1992 - was collected. Of equal concern, data is not available for the years prior to 1991-92, so we have no idea how much, if any, default payments were collected in that time. We do not know the reasons for these expensively unsatisfactory events, but, again, an inquiry would find out.

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