POLL: Minister's forums focus on how to reduce waiting times for public housing

FINDING FEEDBACK: Family and Community Services Western NSW district director Jo Lawrence at the public forum held in Orange on Wednesday. Photo: NICOLE KUTER          0128nkforum
FINDING FEEDBACK: Family and Community Services Western NSW district director Jo Lawrence at the public forum held in Orange on Wednesday. Photo: NICOLE KUTER 0128nkforum

REDUCING the cost of education, rewards for people who look after their public housing properties and repercussions for those who do not were some of the suggestions given to the government on its latest public housing discussion paper. 

State Family and Community Services Minister Gabrielle Upton held community forums across the state, including Dubbo and Orange, on Wednesday. 

Members of the public were invited to address the Western NSW district director Jo Lawrence at the forum, held at the Orange Ex-Services Club.

About 25 service providers attended, but few residents were there. 

The paper titled Social Housing in NSW: A discussion paper for input and comment is attempting to address problems in the public housing system such as high levels of tenants unemployment - 94 per cent are on benefits. 

People are also staying in public housing for longer because they cannot get a job and it becomes inter-generational. 

“The issues facing Orange are no different to Dubbo and Bathurst or any other area of high social housing concentration, for that matter,” Ms Lawrence said. 

“The forum was very positive. People in Orange recognise the need for reform and were keen to offer a range of solutions.”

Suggestions on how to combat public housing problems, from the two forums, included reducing the cost of TAFE and university education, as well as using the state’s $80 million bill for maintaining properties to provide tenants with skills training.

Or the maintenance budget could be put towards providing real estate agents with rebates for finding accommodation for social housing tenants to reduce the waiting times.

“Expected waiting times for public housing properties vary, depending on property type,” Ms Lawrence said. 

“In Orange, that time is around two to five years for three- and four-bedroom properties, and five to 10 years for one- and two-bedroom properties.”

Another suggestion was an incentive system where tenants were rewarded for looking after their properties, with repercussions for consistently damaging housing. 

“The government acknowledges that there are no easy solutions to the challenges that face public housing, which is why the Premier has made social housing a priority under the Innovation Initiative, and why Minister Upton released the social housing discussion paper, which has led to forums such as this,” Ms Lawrence said. 

The paper is available at www.facs.nsw.gov.au. and people have until February 20 to offer feedback. 

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