Sunday, June 27, 2010

Families left out as singles sublet public housing

Maris Beck
June 27, 2010 - 3:00AM

A SHORTAGE of single-bedroom housing commission flats has meant two and three-bedroom units are being rented to singles and couples, some of whom are then subletting rooms, in breach of Office of Housing rules.

Meanwhile, families needing several bedrooms are left waiting, sometimes for years, for appropriate accommodation to become available, a public housing tenants association spokesman said.

Residents at the Fitzroy commission flats say the state government has failed to crack down on the subletting practice, despite repeated requests.

The president of the residents association at the Fitzroy commission flats, Frank Lin, said he knew of about 20 residents in the towers who sublet their rooms. The going rate, he said, was $80 a week.

A government spokesman confirmed that some single people or couples lived in two or three-bedroom flats and were not required to share with flatmates. But it is against the Office of Housing's rules for residents to own other properties or sublet rooms.

However, Mr Lin said it was easy for people to make money from subletting because the office was not proactive and did not investigate effectively.

He said in most cases where residents rented out spare rooms, they simply told authorities they were living with relatives, if they were asked - despite in some instances not even speaking the same language.

Mr Lin also said he knew of residents who had applied for and been granted public housing even though they already had somewhere to live, and then rented out the extra accommodation.

Residents have written to the Office of Housing, and the issue has been raised at meetings with Department of Human Services employees, he said.

State Minister for Housing Richard Wynne denied the practice was widespread, but said offenders would be evicted.

''There is no evidence of systematic subletting,'' he said. ''When there is evidence, we will take action through VCAT to have offenders evicted. We encourage anyone with allegations to contact the Office of Housing.''

But Mr Lin said he did not know of anyone who had been caught for the practice. In Mr Lin's office the desks are piled high with application forms. Many people, he said, would wait years to get a place in public housing, or gave up on the process altogether.

''That is very bad. The management of the housing, the Minister of Housing, is very … bureaucratic.''

A resident of the flats for 20 years, Kim Go Wong, said that where she used to live in Hong Kong, the authorities were much more effective. She said through a translator: ''They have very close details of the tenants … so if someone new came to live in the house, they will investigate. But, no, not here.''

Toby Archer, a policy worker at the Tenants Union of Victoria, said he had heard allegations about subletting, but did not think it was widespread. He said residents sometimes had grudges against each other and made unfounded allegations.

A spokesman for the Department of Human Services, Brendan Ryan, said the department had applied to VCAT about three suspected cases of subletting, but he did not know the outcome of the cases.

''Our practice shows subletting is not a common practice on housing estates,'' he said. ''When we become aware of subletting we can and do take action.''

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/families-left-out-as-singles-sublet-public-housing-20100626-zb21.html

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