Seventh Voice Original
In Australia we are lucky. We have a system that provides public housing for those who are unable to afford the private rental market. Well in theory, that’s what it’s there for.
Of late there’s been a lot of discussion as to whether individuals who are living in public housing, have the right to remain in properties that may better serve the needs of those with young families.
The discussion goes as follows:
-In Australia we have a public housing shortage.
-This shortage is seeing those with young families on low or no incomes residing in temporary or short-term emergency accommodation.
-However, there is also a dire shortage of temporary or emergency accommodation due to the long lists of those requiring it while waiting for public housing to become available.
-Some young families are currently living out of friend’s garages, cars, caravans or tents.
-Australia is a country with a demographically aging population.
-Many who are now in public housing are aged 50 years or over. This means that their children have grown up and are typically no longer residing in the house with them.
-Hence we have individuals or couples living in 3 and 4 bedroom homes provided to them by public housing.
-These homes were secured originally as family dwellings when the occupant’s children were younger.
The proposed solution to the public housing crisis is that those individuals or couples who are now living in 3 or 4 bedroom homes that they no longer require, should be moved on to smaller public housing residences in order to provide the current crop of struggling young families housing.
The problem is however, that those already situated within public housing, do not wish to move on from the homes they have lived in for years and in which their own children have grown up.
I can see this debate from both sides. As a child I grew up in public housing and I know first-hand just how many memories can be attached to a family ‘home’ that is not technically your own.
Yet, also as a child, due to lack of accommodation, my family experienced living in a caravan for 4 months in winter. It was awful, cold and soul-destroying. I would never want to do that again and I could not imagine subjecting my own children to that kind of stressful homeless misery.
Now, as an adult, I live next door to a 3 bedroom public housing home. The tenants, a couple in their 50’s, have been there for over 27 years. Their children are grown up. They both work and whilst they do not own the bricks and mortar they live in, they do indeed own the two 4 wheel drives and two speed boats that fill their lane way.
I have to admit that every time I see a report on the news about a young family being forced to live out of a car I wonder how it is that the couple next door can continue to live in a house far bigger than they actually need, while others who desperately need such accommodation are being told there’s no public housing available for them?
It also strikes me, that if the couple next door can afford 4 wheel drives and speed boats, then surely they can also afford to leave public housing?
So could it now be the case that those who have been receiving public housing for so long, genuinely no longer, actually need it, but rather, simply feel entitled to it?
Could it be that some people receiving public housing are abusing the system?
If so how do we stop this practice?
My solution to taking some of the emotion out of this debate is to ask these very simple questions:
If you were renting privately and the landlord chose not to renew your tenancy contract, but instead rent the house to another family, would you be able to refuse to move on the grounds that you did now want too?
Would it legally matter how long you’ve been living in that rental property?
Would viewing that rental property as your home legally prevent a landlord from being able to rent it to someone else?
Should having the income available to rent a private property, but choosing not too out of habit, be considered a legitimate reason to stay in public housing?
The answer to these questions is no.
You could not legally choose to stay in a house that is not yours just because you don’t want to move, have lived in it a long time, or view it as your home.
If the house is not your own, then whilst it may be your home, it is technically not your property.
Therefore I do not understand why choosing to remain in public housing when you have the financial ability not too, is seen as a viable mechanism for out-weighing the needs of those who genuinely require public housing.
I cannot help but to agree that it is time to take a good long look at how our public housing system is being run and if necessary, overhaul all the inequities that have trickled in.
For whilst it may be a daunting and emotional experience to have to consider moving to a new location at a later stage in life, it is not a legitimate reason to prevent young families from benefiting from public housing.
That is , after all, what public housing is there for.