Source: The Mercury, 14 May 1996
By JODI DE CESARE THE State Government faces a spiralling repair bill for trashed public houses. Repairs to vacated homes cost $5.6 million last financial year, an increase of $1 million on the previous year. Each of the 3181 damaged homes required an average $1771 in repairs. The Department of Community and Health Services' 1994-95 annual report said rising mainte- nance costs were a major con- tributor to an increase of more than $13 million in the net cost of providing the ser- vice. The time required to repair and reallocate homes has risen from 14 to 18 days, part- ly because of the scale of the damage, representing a fur- ther cost to the Government. The number of vacated houses needing repairs increased by 8%. In 1993-94, there was an average repair bill of $1554 for damaged homes. The damage has sparked a State Government crackdown on public housing tenants. Lifetime Community and Health Services Minister Peter McKay has warned that ten- ants causing deliberate dam- age face a lifetime ban on access to Housing Com- mission homes. However, the Tenants Union yesterday said most public housing tenants were being publicly denigrated because of the actions of a few. "It's really bad to give pub- lic tenants such a bad image," said union coordinator Carol Leney. "It creates all sorts of prob- lems. They vrill not get jobs if they come from public hous- ing areas, which is a problem anyway. "They can't get credit, rental cars . . . anything on credit is difficult for them to get because they live in public housing." Ms Leney said the depart- ment already had a strict eviction policy, with banished tenants ineligible for housing until they paid for past dam- age. "To get public housing in the first place is a very diffi- cult procedure," she said. "Not many people are going to want to destroy their housing after going through that pro- cess." She said much damage was caused in domestic violence inci- dents and by vandals who were not necessarily tenants. However, Opposition spokes- man Peter Patmore said tenants had to take responsibility for damage even if it was caused by vandals. "It's up to the tenant to control who is in there and give immedi- ate notice of any damage to the landlord," he said. "At the end of the day you cannot constantly be a victim. You have to accept respons- ibility." Mr Patmore has suggested a trial period for all new public- housing tenants to screen bad behaviour. "Other tenants are sick of it they have had enough," he said. "They reckon these people give them a bad name and it's true. "I'm saying to the Government you can have a heap of money where you don't get your walls kicked in. "It's good economic sense and good people sense averting prob- lems before they arise."
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