ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: ACTCOSS condemns heartless public housing moves

2 March 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today condemned the heartless implementation by the ACT Government of its public housing renewal program.

In recent days, over 300 ACT Housing tenants – including older people, people with chronic health issues and people with disability – have been shocked to receive letters informing them that they will need to vacate their properties.

Many have been living in their homes for decades.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said that many of the residents were deeply distressed to suddenly receive a notice to vacate and that the ACT Government had failed to ensure proper assistance was in place for tenants.

Dr Campbell said: “To send these types of letters, without adequate support in place for tenants, is incredibly callous and cruel.

“ACTCOSS calls on the Minister for Housing, Yvette Berry MLA and ACT Housing to immediately review the program and to resource independent legal and advocacy services to represent impacted tenants,” Dr Campbell said. 

The ACT Government says that its Growing and Renewing Public Housing program, gives public housing tenants in Canberra the chance to move out of their homes to newer homes so older sites can be sold to raise revenue or be redeveloped into modern public housing.

Dr Campbell said: “ACTCOSS and other partners have provided advice to the Growing and Renewing program in good faith. Our strong advice to the government included the need for tenants to be able to access independent and well-resourced advocacy supports.

“However, this latest step suggests that our advice has been disregarded.

“Community organisations, including community legal services, have been overwhelmed with calls from distressed tenants desperate for support to avoid eviction from their homes.

“It is unclear what criteria has been used for determining which tenants received a letter. Many of these houses are perfectly adequate and have tenants who wish to remain in the property.

“However, we do note that many of the properties happen to be located on high value land. 

“Some of these tenants have lived in their homes for more than 50 years and have invested significant amounts in upkeep and renovation. Some residents are elderly or are people with disability and are located close to family and support networks,” said Dr Campbell. 

Dr Campbell said the notification process had been heartless and cruel with:

  • no support offered to individuals receiving the letter aside from a list of telephone numbers
  • tenants reporting that the Tenant Relocation Team hotline was not in operation when they called; and
  • no additional funding or resources provided to the community organisations tasked with managing calls from distressed tenants.

Dr Campbell said: “The fact that properties are built on high value land that the ACT Government wishes to sell should not be a reason to order public housing tenants out of their homes.

“Many of the individuals involved are highly vulnerable, including people with dementia or complex mental health issues.

“ACTCOSS, ACT Shelter and other community sector organisations had urged the ACT Government to ensure that a proper process for engaging with tenants was established. This would have involved independent organisations offering support and advocacy so that the topic of possible relocation could be broached in a respectful and safe way.

“Clearly, this advice has been ignored,” Dr Campbell concluded.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617.