Bedroom tax hits NSW

helicopter looking into house

IN ANOTHER case of policy that looks good on paper, but could turn ugly when put into practice, the NSW Government will tax public housing tenants with two or more spare bedrooms from September.

Tenants who have two or more spare bedrooms will be required to move out or pay a tax: $20 per week for singles and $30 per week for couples.

Minister for Housing Pru Goward announced the measure in the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday 26 June, saying: “This will not only act as an incentive to house more needy families with children, but will mean that tenants pay a fairer contribution for vacant bedrooms.”

Tenants whose bedroom entitlement is below the number of bedrooms they have will be subject to this measure.

A single person in a two-bedroom home will not be affected.

Affected tenants will be given two offers of alternative housing in the same allocation area.

If they refuse the second offer, they will have to start paying the tax after 14 days.

Tenants will be assisted in their move and Housing NSW claims that they will be compensated  for any additions made to the property that are fixed (like installation of an air conditioner), factoring in depreciation (surprise, surprise).

Some suburbs have high numbers of single and two-person households in three and four-bedroom homes.  

Mount Druitt and Bankstown in Western Sydney, and Shellharbour on the South Coast, have been flagged as being ‘target’ suburbs.

The idea mimics that of the UK Government, which implemented a bedroom tax this year.

It is harsher than that to be implemented in NSW (anyone with any number of spare bedrooms is taxed) but the idea is the same.

It’s what gets bean-counters out of bed in the morning: making efficient use of an insufficient resource.

And when you start seeing people as a number, it makes sense.

There are about 55,000 people waiting for social housing in NSW. Housing NSW calculates there to be 17,000 public housing properties with vacant bedrooms.

But people aren’t numbers.

It doesn’t matter about your lease, how old, sick or disabled you are, or how you use your home, you’ll have to move if you don’t want to pay the tax.

It also doesn’t matter whether your furniture will fit into the new place.

Or if you have the grandkids over for two nights per week to help out with the housework.

You’ll have to move, or pay up.

It will be possible to appeal decisions made by Housing NSW to the Housing Appeals Committee.

Although this Committee’s decisions are not binding, it is understood that Housing NSW accepts their recommendations in 90 per cent of cases.

In September last year, the Minister for Housing wrote to CPSA in response to our concerns about the then voluntary downsizing initiative for public housing tenants, saying “I’m very conscious of the importance of sensitivity”.

Only time will tell the level of sensitivity expressed by the Housing NSW officers charged with moving people from their homes.

snail cartoon for web

          "Housing NSW told her her house was too big for her"