Thursday, 3 April 2008

Public housing rorts cost $53m a year

People who rort the NSW public housing system are costing taxpayers up to $53 million a year, prompting a new crackdown by the state government.

It comes after recent investigations found people owning as many as 16 properties or running two businesses were claiming assistance through the public housing system.

Tenant cheats have now been given a three-month amnesty period to come forward and correct their tenancy details, including their income, or risk being sent to jail.

NSW Housing Minister Matt Brown said the Tenancy Fraud Bill 2008, to be introduced into parliament on Thursday, would give the government new powers to pursue cheats and frauds.

"Public housing is a scarce resource, and it's my job to ensure we allocate it to those with genuine need," Mr Brown told reporters.

"What this new law is all about is cracking down on cheats.

"We're going to crack down on cheats who own homes, businesses, boats and then expect the taxpayers to subsidise their rent as well."

The new powers will allow the Department of Housing to cross-check with other government agencies, to see what assets public housing tenants own or what businesses they may be operating.

The legislation will also allow the government to go after illegal occupants of public housing who are not tenants.

A new offence of failure to notify change of conditions will be created, with the maximum punishment being a jail sentence.

Mr Brown said the $53 million lost each year could go to providing an additional 200 homes to people who actually needed them.

The current waiting list for public housing in NSW is around 40,000.

"I just can't believe that anyone thinks they can get a taxpayer subsidised rent when we've got people in real need, the aged ... some homeless people, people with disability," Mr Brown said.

"I think they are pretty rotten to think they can get a house, subsidised by the taxpayer ... and deny many people who are in need of homes."

Recent examples of fraud include a tenant in Sydney's eastern suburbs who was claiming public housing assistance while running a painting and decorating business and owning 16 investment properties in NSW and South Australia.

The owner of two real estate agencies, who was also a director of a finance company, was also recently caught rorting public housing assistance. That tenant now owes $16,000 to the department.

"If people are driving around in fancy BMWs and wanting a Department of Housing home, then they are ... looking at the wrong type of home," Mr Brown said.

Quote: With this new draconian law the authorities may then send someone to jail who owns nothing but who may have made a common mistake of "failure to notify change of conditions" or use this legislation to simply get rid of "illegal occupants" who from my understanding are usually just mentally ill people who don't know how to apply for public housing themselves but who reside with others. Then the authorities can give the tenancy to someone else.

I strongly suspect this is not about the alleged two recent examples of fraud quoted above but simply an 'umbrella' to be opened up to catch anyone. If those above people misused the system then why not just make them pay for their mistake instead of threatening every other law abiding public housing tenant with losing their tenancy for minor discrepancies or misconceptions?

What we also need is proof of the alleged fraud quoted above and why the authorities couldn't get their money back from people who they say had "16 investment properties" and or "two real estate agencies" and not just the say so of the NSW Government. People do get sick of government propaganda and coverup's by the NSW government who has left public housing rot just like the hospitals and any excuse will do to kick people out so that they can claim there is sufficient public housing when there is not.

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