Rent hikes hit vul­ner­a­ble hard­est

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - OPINION -

SO­CIAL hous­ing ten­ants liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties or men­tal health is­sues could be hard­est hit by a Depart­ment of Hous­ing de­ci­sion to in­crease weekly rents, ac­cord­ing to ad­vo­cacy agen­cies.

The depart­ment told ten­ants last month that as of March 28, rent pay­ments would in­crease to 25 per cent of their to­tal in­come, in­clud­ing pen­sions, al­lowances and ben­e­fits.

The in­crease would be capped at $12 a week un­til the start of the next fi­nan­cial year.

A coali­tion of ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tions – Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties WA, Coun­cil on the Age­ing WA, Car­ers WA and Con­sumers of Men­tal Health WA – re­leased a state­ment last week call­ing on the Hous­ing Depart­ment to re­verse the de­ci­sion.

Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Sa­man­tha Jenk­in­son said a re­port from the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics showed as many as 67 per cent of peo­ple liv­ing in so­cial hous­ing said they had some form of dis­abil­ity and that the de­ci­sion to in­clude spe­cial-pur­pose pay­ments as in­come would put th­ese ten­ants at a big dis­ad­van­tage.

“We thought there was a fair­ness to the (cur­rent) pol­icy which al­lowed spe­cial-pur­pose pay­ments and part of Fam­ily Tax Ben­e­fits to not be as­sessed as in­come in recog­ni­tion that they ad­dress spe­cific dis­ad­van­tage cer­tain peo­ple and fam­i­lies have,” she said.

“For many peo­ple with dis­abil­ity, they might re­ceive al­lowances such as phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and mo­bil­ity al­lowance, pen­sion­ers sup­ple­ment, and a fam­ily would get some pay­ment from Fam­ily Tax Ben­e­fit.

“Th­ese might pro­vide an ad­di­tional $80 per week that would nor­mally be spent on med­i­ca­tion, taxis, in­creased en­ergy bills, ex­tra med­i­cal or house­hold sup­plies re­lated to dis­abil­ity, any co-pay­ment of treat­ment costs etc.

“The new as­sess­ment will lead to fur­ther rent in­creases once the grace pe­riod (capped in­crease) ends next fi­nan­cial year and that $80 per week will then be $60 per week to cover the ex­tra costs as $20 will now be in­cluded with rent.”

Ms Jenk­in­son said they were con­cerned peo­ple would forgo essentials to pay for treat­ment and med­i­ca­tion, or put them­selves at risk by turn­ing off air­con­di­tion­ers to save on their power bills.

Depart­ment of Hous­ing act­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery gen­eral man­ager Peter Lons­dale said the new sys­tem would en­sure all pub­lic hous­ing ten­ants would have their rent cal­cu­lated in the same way.

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