ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Public housing tenants given 48 hour deadline

15 June 2022

Media Release

ACT Public Housing tenants, many of whom have been in their homes for decades, have been given just two days to prepare for a formal hearing to argue why they should not be forcibly relocated.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) said today that public housing tenants threatened with loss of their homes under the ACT Government’s Growing and Renewing Public Housing Program have been given under 48 hours to arrange representation and prepare to appear before a Government-appointed panel to request an exemption.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “ACTCOSS has written to the ACT Government on numerous occasions asking for details of the promised refined process through which vulnerable tenants can receive a discretionary decision to remain in their properties.

“Despite a Housing ACT promise on 5 May 2022 that ‘upon finalisation of the Exemption Policy and Practice Guideline, expected in the coming weeks, [we] will provide a copy of this process to you,’ ACTCOSS has received no such information.

“We were therefore astonished to hear that tenants were contacted yesterday and told they had just 48 hours to prepare their case to appear before a ‘Tenant Relocation Exemption Panel’.

Dr Campbell continued: “Further, no information has been made available to tenants or the community sector as to the criteria for decision making; composition, qualification and independence of the panel; time period for the delivery of decisions; whether decisions can be appealed; and whether tenants can appear remotely.

“Ministers Yvette Berry MLA and Rebecca Vassarotti MLA need to explain why it is appropriate that these vulnerable tenants, already distressed by months of uncertainty, have been given just two days to prepare their case to put before a panel organised by Housing ACT – an entity backed by revenues of hundreds of millions of dollars, nearly 300 staff and high-powered legal resources.

“By contrast, many tenants need support to appear in person or online and community sector lawyers and advocates simply cannot be arranged in such limited time. Some tenants will be unable to take time off work, given the short notice,” Dr Campbell said.  

ACTCOSS has called for the process to relocate public housing tenants to be non-coercive and to respect the human rights of vulnerable tenants.

Dr Campbell said: “Several months ago, after a meeting with Ministers Berry and Vassarotti, ACTCOSS welcomed the ACT Government’s promise to ‘refine’ the discretionary provisions within the Growing and Renewing Public Housing Program.

"However, giving fewer than 48 hours to vulnerable tenants to make a case as to why they should be able to remain in their homes – in some cases of up to 60 years – does not meet the criteria of being non-coercive or respectful of their human rights.”

 

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 or 02 6202 7200