Rich public housing tenants evicted
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Rich public housing tenants evicted

The ACT government has begun evicting its wealthier public housing tenants, including one household earning more than $230,000 a year.

To date, 43 Housing ACT residents have been served with a notice to vacate as part of the government's crackdown on middle class tenants, which has caused concern amongs local welfare groups.

Approximately 250 households of the 1000 public housing renters paying market prices have declared household incomes of more than $80,000 a year over one or two financial years. Of these, more than 100 have reported household incomes in excess of $100,000 a year.

Housing Minister Joy Burch said the process, which began five years ago, would deliver housing to those most in need throughout the capital.

''With about 1900 individuals and families on our social housing waiting list, and almost 200 in the most urgent category, we need to ensure that our public housing is allocated to those most in need,'' she said.

''It is difficult to continue to support a situation where we have some public housing tenants who are in public housing are in a position to buy a house or comfortably rent in the private market when we have families experiencing homelessness on our waiting lists.''

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But Genevieve Bolton, from the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre, said the process failed to recognise the contribution that market renters made to public housing.

''It's a very short-sighted policy on behalf of the ACT government,'' she said.

Ms Bolton said people generally left public housing when they felt they could, and continuing tenancies could be due to mental and physical health issues, as well as finances.

''Often people remain in public housing due to a great level of uncertainty,'' she said. A spokesman for Ms Burch said each matter under review was considered case by case.

''For example, one tenant assessed by the panel will continue to reside at his ACT Housing property because of health reasons, for having a lower income than that reported in 2010-11, and another because he was retiring at the end of the year,'' he said.

Tenants can also appeal to ACAT against the decision of the panel, as well as ask for a second level review by the Housing and Tenancy Review Panel.

The Sustainable Incomes Multi-disciplinary panel established by the government has so far considered 59 matters relating to household incomes from $115,591 gross a year to $230,058.

Of these cases, 43 tenants are leaving while 11 will remain in public housing. A further four cases have been deferred and one matter has been withdrawn.

The spokesman for Ms Burch said the process had also prompted many public housing recipients to either buy their home or vacate voluntarily. Thirty-five tenants have already left without an order being issued.

As of mid-October, 26 market rent paying tenants had applied to buy their properties through the government's Sale-to-Tenant or Shared Equity schemes.

''Any properties sold will be replaced.

ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson said the government needed to go one step further and increase its public housing stock.

''While ACT's percentage of housing stock is the highest nationally, the need is greater as those on the public housing waiting list are in a double bind due to the very high costs of private rental in the ACT,'' she said.

''The long waiting list also reflects a longstanding undersupply of public housing generally.''