Help the homeless by better managing public housing

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There are two kinds of people in Canberra; those who work and pay taxes and those who don’t, says letter writer LUCINDA SPIER, of Campbell. 

THIS beautiful city was built on extortionately high property taxes. 

While ratepayers are being screwed, getting public housing has never been easier if you have the right story.

The ACT Greens-Labor government is a kleptocracy. They steal from the homeowner and give to those who get everything for nothing. There is a direct wealth transfer from ratepayers to those in public housing. In addition to getting a house for next to nothing, Public Housing tenants don’t pay rates.

Greens and Labor believe public housing is a right and don’t care who pays for it. They also bang on about fairness but never for the taxpayer.

There are roughly 12,000 public housing properties in the ACT. There is also a large homeless population and a long waiting list – how can that be? 

We have the largest stock of housing per capita in Australia and still we have homelessness and needy families waiting an eternity to get a house. 

The only conclusion is that the ACT government mismanages this valuable asset – or even more worrying, don’t manage it at all.

In addition to the inequity of giving someone a house in perpetuity, there is rorting. There are many “tenants” who live in these properties whose names are not on the leases. There are even people who sublet properties and live elsewhere. Not to mention tenants who damage properties and don’t pay for damage and tenants who get behind in their rent.

If the government managed this valuable portfolio properly there would be no waiting list and no one living on the streets. The government should immediately audit the properties to ensure they have the correct person living in them and they haven’t been destroyed.

It seems to me that public housing tenants have more rights than people who own their own houses. 

Just look at what the government did to Mr Fluffy home owners. They compulsorily acquired them. Compared to Bega Flats tenants who were relocated – they were consulted with and treated as though they owned the flats and not chucked out.

To make this system fairer, no housing property should be given in perpetuity. Each property should have a lease period specified and reviewed at the end of the lease. No different to private leases.

Clearly this government can’t manage Canberra’s most valuable asset. They don’t have the guts to evict bad tenants and should hand that aspect of their job to the private sector. 

If the Greens and Labor won’t look after our assets and ensure public houses are properly allocated and not trashed, then elect a government that will look after them. That is, if the government cares about looking after the most vulnerable in our society – the homeless.

Lucinda Spier, Campbell

Plea to prevent suicides

WE write to echo concerns expressed in Jon Stanhope’s column “Disturbed Jonathon dies alone in a cell” (CN, May 21).

This was not an isolated incident. Our family’s experience of the interaction between the mental health and the justice systems for our family member has been as traumatic as the incident that led to them being held in custody. 

The experience  involved confusion between the responsibilities of the Canberra Health Service and the requirements of the Mental Health Act and the criminal code. 

It appears staff turnover and resourcing creates significant challenges. Additionally, there was denial at repeated times by Corrections staff, police and the Director of Public Prosecution’s office to follow recommendations from the multitude of psychiatrists that the family member was suffering psychosis, had schizophrenia and needed to be placed in a mental health unit.

There are others who have been denied coronial inquests, losing their family members to suicide when services could have been provided.  Surely, in addition to addressing AMC woes, a better approach would not incarcerate those with mental illness or comorbid drug or alcohol use. Identify and resource alternate treatments and accommodation to address such issues. 

Other research reports far better outcomes, including lower recidivism for those caught up with the justice system, where treated at mental health facilities rather than through prisons. Thereby, also reducing the likelihood of suicide and self harm.

The ACT government reports a focus on “Justice Reinvestment” – that is funding services and practices to prevent or divert those most at risk from entering the criminal system.

So in this ACT election year, a message – please increase your focus and investment on supporting those with a mental illness, including those from the indigenous community. 

Such an approach is both compassionate and cost-effective. Equip community support services to address core needs, better integrate police and mental health services, re-invigorate and speed up the work on the Disability Justice Strategy, better resource the Mental Health, Justice Health, Alcohol and Drug Services, and Corrections so they can research and undertake alternate evidence-based activities. 

Please attend to cries from those of us trying to prevent further suicide, self harm and harm to others.

Names and address withheld

‘Crazy’ bridge idea dropped

GOOD to see the National Capital Authority apparently dropping the crazy idea of demolishing and replacing the much-loved Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, related to light rail stage 2, Civic to Woden. 

However, the tram will still severely compromise the bridge’s distinctive bulk-reducing bifurcated form, and other important characteristics, including various framed vistas from the foreshores and beyond. 

And what about the heritage of the rest of Commonwealth Avenue, especially its trees; the exemplary, formalised engineering design of its intersections at Vernon Circle, London Circuit, Parkes Way, and State Circle; and the symmetry with Kings Avenue, all of which will be also ruined if “Stages 2A and B” of Canberra light rail take that route from Civic to Capital Hill? 

Not to mention the massive cost (including special wires-free power), and the protracted disruption involved; as well as the inappropriate “land-value-capture” private property development all along arguably Australia’s premier ceremonial/parliamentary avenues. 

That’s no way for a tram line to cross the lake in the Central National Area.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah


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