Source: The Mercury, 14 May 1996


$5.6m bill

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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