Empty rooms spark new public housing row

Member for Kiama Gareth Ward has defended the NSW government's moves to fill empty bedrooms in public housing, accusing Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson of "scaremongering" over the issue.

Ms Watson had earlier accused the government of "hiding" the numbers of people in Shellharbour who had requested a move to smaller homes, but could not be accommodated.

Under a policy announced by Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward in June, the government will try to relocate public housing tenants who are in houses with at least two more bedrooms than they need.

Illawarra's public housing fight heads south

Shellharbour, along with Mount Druitt and Liverpool, was identified by Ms Goward as an area the government would target.

Under the new scheme, residents who have two or more extra bedrooms will be made two offers of other accommodation, after which they will be charged extra if they do not move. Ms Watson has labelled this a "bed tax".

She has asked Ms Goward how many Shellharbour residents had requested transfers, but was told only there had been "a number".

"The NSW government has publicly placed a target on public housing tenants in my electorate, effectively labelling them rorters, yet it won't reveal how many tenants have asked Housing NSW for a transfer to smaller accommodation," she said.

"The minister won't reveal how many transfer requests have been accommodated or not able to be accommodated and the reasons why."

Mr Ward said the government had implemented a more transparent method of reporting the number of people on waiting lists for public housing, but this did not include information on people awaiting transfers within the system.

He said Ms Watson was "misleading the community" by accusing the government of hiding the information.

"People who are approached to relocate because they have two or more vacant bedrooms will be made two suitable offers of accommodation before the vacant bedroom charge is applied," he said.

"Also, tenants will generally be offered a property in the same area as they currently live."

File picture.

File picture.

Mr Ward said the new system was about "incentives" to try to stop an estimated 35,000 vacant bedrooms going to waste.

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