The Illawarra’s peak community services body has hit out at a strategy to free up public housing stock by increasing the rent of higher-earning tenants.
More than 350 Wollongong tenants will face rent hikes from November in a bid to encourage them into the private rental market.
Illawarra Forum chief executive Nicky Sloan said the strategy, while aimed at freeing up subsidised properties for the most needy, failed to address the region’s shortage of affordable housing.
‘‘Obviously we think it’s really important to free up public housing – the waiting lists are huge and the people on those lists are often in dire need – but we question whether this is the right strategy,’’ Ms Sloan said.
‘‘Pushing one lot of people out to make room for another lot of people is really shifting the issue, which is really that there is just not enough affordable housing for people in the Illawarra.
‘‘We don’t want to see vulnerable people further disadvantaged.’’
Affected tenants – targeted because their household income has increased since they went in to public housing –will be asked to pay between $50 and $150 a week more, bringing their rent in line with the private market.
Wollongong MP Noreen Hay said the strategy would serve as a disincentive to public housing tenants who sought to improve their lot in life.
“The fact that Housing NSW is telling tenants who have managed to increase their income that they have to either take a massive $150 rental rise or get out is simply a disgrace,” Ms Hay said.
“The real issue here is inadequate funding and housing stock. The waiting times for public housing would be improved in the Wollongong area if empty properties were utilised and outstanding maintenance undertaken and .. the Housing NSW stopped selling off housing stock or at least replenished it.’’
Illawarra Real Estate Institute chairman Trever Molenaar said the strategy could be good news for area landlords if it had the intended effect of diverting tenants to the private market.
‘‘It’s great for the economy and for confidence in the market,’’ he said.