Residents plead to stop public housing sell-off

Aviva Sheb'a, Wendy Campbell, Eric Early and Michael Walsh fronted the inquiry in a bid to halt the state's sell-off of public housing.Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Aviva Sheb'a, Wendy Campbell, Eric Early and Michael Walsh fronted the inquiry in a bid to halt the state's sell-off of public housing.Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Illawarra residents have fronted a state inquiry with stories of happiness, anger and humiliation, in a bid to stop the state's sell-off of public housing and improve the supply of stable housing for the region's most needy.

Woonona East Housing NSW tenant Wendy Campbell was moved to tears while at the lectern in Wollongong on Thursday, as she told a parliamentary select committee "my house is being sold".

Ms Campbell, who suffers from depression and other medical issues, told the state's Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing she had had a turbulent upbringing and her home had been a rare source of stability for the past 10 years.

"I've lived in more than 90 houses ... I went to 29 schools," she said.

"The current home I'm in is a safe home ... it's the last place that I saw my mother [before her death]. It's the last place that my family could ... be a family."

Michael Walsh, also of Woonona East, told the inquiry he and his wife were at first prepared to move out of their three-bedroom home when asked by Housing NSW, assuming the property would go to a family.

Mr Walsh said the couple had occupied the home for 40 years, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on maintenance and upgrades, including new carpet and construction of garage at a cost of $16,500. He told the inquiry his attitude towards moving out changed when he learnt the house would be sold, not re-purposed.

"I said, there's no hope in the world you're going to do that while I'm here," said Mr Walsh, president of the residents' group Public Housing Union of the Illawarra.

Aviva Sheb'a, of Fernhill, also addressed the inquiry, calling for more stable housing options for tenants of public housing.

Ms Sheb'a, who suffers a number of serious health complications and receives a disability pension, said she "braced herself" every time an envelope from Family and Community Services arrived.

"Who knows what it may contain? The regular newsletters seem to accuse you personally of being greedy; of wanting more space than you need; that there are people worse off than you who need your home."

Ms Sheb'a said she had been "humiliated" by the housing department.

"I became homeless because information had been withheld from me," she said. "When homeless, I had to go weekly to the Wollongong housing office, which didn't have parking for people with disability."

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