Thursday, March 20, 2014

Information about relocations from Millers Point and The Rocks

From the long version of Minister Goward's media release announcing the sale of social housing at Millers Point and The Rocks:

Approach to the relocations process

Each tenant in Millers Point will be individually visited and notified that a relocations officer has been assigned to them and that an appointment will be made to discuss their relocation needs.
Specialist relocations officers are experienced staff members from the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) who have experience of successfully relocating tenants, including older tenants and tenants with special needs. They are senior client services staff who have been selected for the role.

Initially, each tenant will be visited to undertake a housing needs assessment. This is a detailed assessment which involves understanding the individual needs of each member of the household and discussing their preferences for relocation in terms of location and the type of housing they need. Any special needs are identified in detail, including any medical needs, mental health issues, disabilities and other complex needs.

The specialist relocations officer will liaise with the family and friends of tenants if they wish for this and will also work with support services. The same officer works with the tenant throughout the process of relocation. The officer draws up a relocations plan for the tenant and their family which outlines the desired location and type of housing they will need, any adaptations they will need to their future property because of disability and the desired timing of their relocation, taking account of factors such as school term times and the availability of alternative accommodation.

The relocations plan outlines the financial assistance which will be available to cover costs arising from the relocation in line with existing Housing NSW policy. The same financial assistance will be offered to relocating community housing tenants.

The specialist relocations officer will help the tenant to view alternative properties if they cannot do this themselves. When an offer of alternative accommodation is accepted, the relocations officer will help the tenant to organise removalists and other aspects of the move such as dealing with utilities providers. The specialist relocations officer will help the tenant to establish support services in their new location, will provide them with information on community facilities in their new location and will visit them after their move to check how they have settled in and follow up on any outstanding issues.

Where there are tenants who wish to be relocated close to each other, for example long standing neighbours who provide support to each other, every effort will be made to accommodate this.
Where a tenant has disabilities, the specialist relocations officer will arrange for an Occupational Therapist to visit the new home with the tenant and make recommendations for adaptations to the property.

Attracting tenants to alternative locations

Under FACS policy, tenants are entitled to two offers of alternative accommodation. For the Millers Point relocations, FACS will use a new approach in addition to making offers to individual tenants.
As properties become available in locations identified by relocating tenants, these will be openly displayed in a location in Millers Point with photographs and supporting information. Open house sessions will be held in those properties.

Tenants will be able to visit several properties and several tenants will be able to visit the same property. Providing that the size of property is appropriate for the tenant’s household, the first tenant to accept the property will become the new tenant.

Some properties, such as those which are fully adapted for people with disabilities will need to be excluded from this process to make sure they are allocated to people who have specific needs.
Involvement of FACS, Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) and Aged Care Assessment Teams Where a tenant is elderly or frail or a tenant has complex needs such as mental illness, the relocations officer will be a Specialist Client Service Officer with experience in working with clients with special needs. Experienced staff from FACS-ADHC will also be engaged to work with these clients. People with mobility problems will generally be offered accommodation which has a lift or is on the ground floor.

If modifications such as grab rails are required, the Specialist Client Service officer will link with an Occupational Therapist to provide an assessment of their needs and arrange to have the necessary work completed, should elderly clients require additional supports to allow them to age in place, such as shopping assistance, FACS-ADHC staff will link these services to the new accommodation.

Elderly and vulnerable clients will also be offered a relocation package which includes the removalist packing and unpacking their belongings. Contact will also be made with family and support providers and the relocations officer will help the client to re-establish support services in their new location. In the case of Aboriginal clients, Specialist Client Service Officers will draw upon the skills of existing Aboriginal Specialist staff.

If an elderly tenant appears to be struggling to live independently, the Specialist Client Service Officer will visit them, and that officer has links to the Aged Care Assessment Team and can make a referral for a specialist assessment to be undertaken to determine whether Commonwealth funded support packages should be provided.

Reimbursement of costs

Tenants’ reasonable costs of moving will be reimbursed as per FACS-Housing NSW policy. This will include removalist fees, utility connections, redirection of mail and new school uniforms where children have to change schools.

Relocating community housing tenants will also be eligible for these payments. Consistent with current policy, tenants will also be reimbursed for improvements they have made to their homes as long as those improvements were approved, subject to a reduction for fair wear and tear.
Voluntary relocations

If required, Housing NSW can use its powers under the Residential Tenancy Act 2010 to terminate a tenancy if more than two offers of alternative accommodation are refused by a tenant. However, every effort will be made to ensure that it won’t be necessary to go to the Tribunal by offering well- presented and maintained accommodation wherever possible.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sirius and Gloucester Street terraces to be sold off

There's lots to say about the sell-off of public housing housing at Millers Point – some initial things we've said in the Tenants' Union's media release, which can be found over at the Brown Couch.

Here's another thing: this announcement is the first mention of selling off properties in The Rocks – particularly the Sirius building, and the Gloucester Street terrace houses. As far as we can tell, these properties were not part of the State Government's review of social housing in and around Millers Point.


(Gloucester Street)

When the review was announced at the end of 2012, local MP Alex Greenwich asked in Parliament:

1.     How many properties are being reviewed for potential sale?
2.     How many social housing properties are being reviewed for potential sale?

– to which then Minister Greg Pearce replied:

(1) to (2) Up to 208 properties are being considered. All 208 properties are social housing properties.
(See page 43 of of the 'Questions and Answers' document linked here.)

208 properties – today's announcement is for 293 properties to be sold, including the 79 units in Sirius and the six duplexed terrace houses in Gloucester Street.

So almost 50 per cent more properties are to be sold than were advised as being under review.

This is unfair to tenants in The Rocks, and to all who made submissions to the review.


Goward announces Millers Point, The Rocks sell-off

Family and Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, has announced that all public housing properties at Millers Point – and the public housing in the Sirius building and in Gloucester Street, The Rocks – will be sold.

The text of the Minister's media release follows. More from the Tenants' Union soon.

Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward announced today high value public housing property assets on the Sydney Harbour foreshore will be sold with the proceeds to be reinvested into the social housing system across NSW.

293 properties in Millers Point, Gloucester Street and the Sirius building in The Rocks will be sold, due to the high cost of maintenance, significant investment required to improve properties to an acceptable standard, and high potential sale values.

"Maintenance on properties in Millers Point costs more than four times the average for public housing dwellings in NSW. In the last 2 years alone, nearly $7 million has been spent maintaining this small number of properties. That money could have been better spent on building more social housing, or investing in the maintenance of public housing properties across the state,” Ms Goward said.

"When the previous Government began selling off public housing in Millers Point in 2008 it let other properties here fall into disrepair. That has now left us with repair bills as high as $800,000 to restore some of these terrace houses to heritage standard.

"The community expects us to invest in a sustainable social housing system which supports disadvantaged people across the whole state. Our ability to do that is severely limited if we sink millions of dollars into a small number of properties," Ms Goward said.

“Subsidies to tenants in the last year alone reached $8.89 million, with individual tenants receiving subsidies as high as $44,000 per annum. This compares to subsidies of $8,000 per year in Campbelltown, $7,000 in Gosford, and $11,000 in Wollongong. For every subsidised tenancy in Millers Point, the Government could assist 5 tenants in Warrawong, or 3.5 tenants in Newcastle or Minto.

“I recognise some tenants have lived in public housing in Millers Point for decades, and moving to a new location may be difficult. This decision was not taken lightly, but it is the right decision in the interest of a sustainable, fair social housing system which currently has more than 57,000 families on the waiting list.

“A team of more than 40 Housing NSW staff is already on the ground talking to tenants. Over the next three months a specialist relocations team will work with each and every tenant individually to understand their needs and work with them through their relocation. Every tenant will be offered reasonable alternative accommodation. All reasonable costs of moving, including reconnecting utilities will be covered,” Ms Goward said.
The project will be driven by former Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs AO GAICD, and is expected to run for two years. Ms Briggs will report directly to the Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services, Michael Coutts-Trotter.