Reform is needed to keep boarding houses a viable housing option, with occupancy rights, support for residents, and Government programs to keep the sector financially viable. If re-elected, I will develop a Private Members Bill to provide for "Occupancy Agreements" in NSW, based on the ACT model.
My Lord Mayoral Salary Trust funded the Redfern Legal Centre's Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service to prepare a residents' kit. Their work shows a complex maze of legislation that means boarding house disputes must go to expensive and lengthy action in the Supreme Court.
Other tenants and landlords have a specific Act and Regulations that set out their rights and responsibilities. The Act provides for cheap and quick access to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, where people don't need legal representation.
Queensland, Victoria and the ACT have tenancy regulation for boarding houses, and I have repeatedly called for NSW legislation.
The Government should fund support services for vulnerable residents based on the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre's boarding house project, which supports residents and operators, links people with health and welfare support services and runs information sessions.
My 1993 legislation to reduce rates and land tax for boarding houses helped reduce operators' costs. This approach should be expanded to reflect massive increases in housing costs. Government industry support programs are needed to reduce operating costs, as recommended by the 2007 Department of Housing Boarding House Accommodation Study.
In response to my Parliamentary Questions, the Minister for Fair Trading said an interdepartmental committee on the Reform of the Shared Private Residential Services Sector was set up in May 2008. The Minister for Housing reported that the Boarding House Financial Assistance Program has been updated, and he is reviewing options. We are yet to see action.
Apart from people living on the streets, boarding house residents are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It is an indictment that action has not been taken to address their needs.
Unlicensed boarding houses are a vital low cost housing option, but there has been a continuing decline in numbers since the 1970s, putting vulnerable people at greater risk of homelessness.
- My speech in Parliament www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.ns...