ACT News


Tenants buy way out of eviction

Middle-class public housing tenants marked for eviction under an ACT government crackdown are simply buying their homes from the housing department rather than move out.

But the government says the money from the sales is being used to relieve the mounting pressure on Canberra's social housing system.

New figures from the government show that 92 eviction notices have been issued since Housing ACT decided to get tough on households with incomes of more than $80,000 living in public housing.

A spokeswoman for Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury said on Friday that 67 tenants had either moved out or struck a purchase deal with Housing ACT, although it was unclear how many had moved and how many had purchased.

Fifteen tenants are still on their six-month eviction notice period while another 12 have been granted reprieves because of changes to their financial circumstances.

Another 76 tenants have had to be forced, with the threat of eviction, to disclose their financial details and a "multi-disciplinary panel" in the housing department will now decide if they can keep their rentals.


The government adopted the get-tough policy in 2012 when faced with a shortage of public houses and growing waiting lists, swollen with low-income families locked out of the capital's tough private rental market.

The move was criticised by public housing and welfare advocates, but former housing minister Joy Burch pushed the new rules through, arguing the accommodation should be provided to needy families, not middle and high-income earners.

Research undertaken by Housing ACT in 2012 of its tenants paying full market rent found 208 tenants in public housing were on household incomes of more than $80,000.

These included 43 tenants who declared income of more than $100,000.

Three households earned more than $140,000. One household was occupying a government-owned house despite having an annual income of more than $240,000. The latest round of research has found more than 100 households with gross annual incomes of more than $100,000 living in government-owned properties.

A couple with a child would not be considered for social housing if they earned more than $49,000.

There are more than 2250 Canberra families waiting to get into the public housing system and the average waiting time for high-needs applicants is 21 months.

According to Mr Rattenbury's spokeswoman, the cut-off income of $80,000, above which tenants are considered for eviction, is being reviewed to ensure that it is fair.

"The Directorate is considering the appropriateness of the $80,000 threshold before proceeding with the next round," the spokeswoman said. "Personal circumstances such as age, disability and the needs of children are taken into account."

The minister's office said that houses occupied by the same tenant for many years were considered most suitable for a sale.

"Properties are considered for sale on a case-by-case basis and as some of these properties might not have been vacated for decades, they may be deemed suitable for sale," the spokeswoman said.

"But in the case of sale they will be replaced through the purchase of another property, consistent with the government's policy of replacing any properties sold with an equivalent number of properties through purchase or construction."

She said that the properties being freed up by the get-tough approach were being used to house high-needs families.

"Most, if not all properties vacated through this process will be allocated to individuals and families on the social housing waiting list, with those in the urgent category - who are typically at risk or experiencing homelessness - to be given priority," the spokeswoman said.