ISTAAS speaks up for public housing tenants in parliamentary inquiry

Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) has spent many years advocating for public housing tenants waiting for basic repairs to be done on their homes. The lack of action they experience, even after correct procedure is followed, can be detrimental to people’s health and wellbeing.

Kimberley Mackenzie (RLC Tenants' Advocate), Jacqui Swinburne (RLC Tenancy Coordinator) & Ned Cutcher (Tenants' Union of NSW).
Kimberley Mackenzie (RLC Tenants' Advocate), Jacqui Swinburne (RLC Tenancy Coordinator) & Ned Cutcher (Tenants' Union of NSW).

The Legislative Assembly is currently conducting an inquiry into the management of NSW public housing maintenance contracts. RLC’s Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service (ISTAAS) welcomed the opportunity to make a submission and give evidence to the Inquiry. Given that in the last reportable financial year, around 30% of the advices it provided to public housing tenants were about repair issues, making it likely that ISTAAS is well placed to participate in this conversation.
   
ISTAAS made a number of recommendations about how to improve the way that repairs and maintenance for public housing tenants are handled. This included the recommendation that contractors undertake Aboriginal cultural safety training, cultural awareness training and mental health training.
 
In our submission and evidence, ISTAAS provided details of the many cases we see where people are living in extremely poor conditions as a result of the NSW Land and Housing Corporation’s (LAHC) failure to carry out essential repairs and maintenance work.  

ISTAAS noted that the conditions are often detrimental to the health and wellbeing of our clients and their families. ISTAAS had the opportunity to talk about the difficulties public housing tenants can have getting repairs done, and called for better funding for maintenance and raised concerns about public housing going to the non-government sector.

This is not the first time ISTAAS has addressed these issues. We raised them in our submissions for previous inquiries into public housing management. We have also spoken to the media about the problems our clients have with getting repairs done and have published the 'The Repair Kit' – a guide to help public housing tenants get repairs. We are currently working on updating the Repair Kit so that it incorporates some changes that have occurred in the last few years.

In April this year, at the same time as the inquiry was taking place, the LAHC rolled out a new Public Housing Maintenance Contract.  We are still waiting to see if this will improve tenants’ experiences of getting repairs and maintenance done to their homes.

RLC’s advocacy for tenants rights, safety and wellbeing is ongoing. We await the outcome of the inquiry.