From the day the State Government announced they had awarded contracts and appointed a community housing association – HousingFirst – to manage the new public housing properties in North Melbourne, Northcote and Preston once they are redeveloped, we have been asking for clarification on a range of concerns.
We sent a series of questions to the Department of Health and Human Services about the announcement, mainly focused on tenants’ rights if they choose to return to their homes.
Below is a full list of the questions asked, along with the answers received.
Is the 12-month trial period mandatory for public housing tenants upon return to their renewed property?
It is the department’s preference that all existing tenants that choose to return to their redeveloped estate enter a normal lease agreement (in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act) with HousingFirst.
For tenants that are unsure of transitioning from the Director of Housing to HousingFirst, they will be asked to consider trialling a 12 month lease with HousingFirst. This is not mandatory, but is highly desirable for consistency of management of the premises and lease agreements.
When will tenants be notified about the requirement for them to apply for Commonwealth Rent Assistance? Given it was not mentioned in the initial letter to tenants.
The requirement to apply for Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) only applies to tenants that choose to return to the redeveloped estates. Approximately 6-12 months before completion of construction, the department / Client Engagement Team will contact tenants to identify those that want to return, and commence the process of introducing them to HousingFirst and the lease and CRA arrangements.
What happens if a tenant chooses to return to their redeveloped estate but refuses to apply for Commonwealth Rent Assistance?
The Management Services Agreement between the Director of Housing and HousingFirst is based on tenants applying for CRA. The tenant would need to discuss their specific reasons for refusing to apply for CRA with the department and HousingFirst to determine an equitable outcome.
Is the tenant’s right to return impacted if they are adamant that they want to return as a Director of Housing-managed tenant, instead of a HousingFirst tenant?
It is highly desirable for consistency of management of the premises and lease agreements that tenants choosing to return to the estate enter a lease agreement with HousingFirst; however the rights of tenants with a right of return will not be diminished if they do not enter a lease agreement with HousingFirst.
When will tenants from the three estates be provided with artists’ impressions and configuration details of the new estates? As there is a lot of concern surrounding the idea that tenants will be siloed and placed in less desirable areas of the estates (e.g. closer to main roads, at the back, etc.)
The department is preparing to share plans and images with the Community Consultative Committee for each of the three estates – meeting dates will be confirmed shortly. The DHHS communications team is also planning to host drop-in style information sessions over the coming months at each estate. This will provide an opportunity for tenants to view images of the redevelopment.
The development agreements require the developer, MAB, to develop social housing that is of equal quality and with equal access to the urban realm as the other forms of housing on each estate.
What consultation is coming? And what will tenants be specifically consulted on?
The next round of Community Consultative Committee meetings for each estate will be attended to by department representatives, HousingFirst, the developer of the site and other stakeholders as required. At all times tenants are able to contact their Client Engagement Team representative with any queries.
What input will members of the Consultative Committee now have re: the North Melbourne, Northcote and Preston redevelopments? Or will these meetings now operate more as information-sharing forums, with little need for feedback from members.
The department will continue to use the Community Consultative Committee meetings for each estate to provide updates on the progress of the redevelopments. The department will also identify components of the development process that members can contribute to; this might include both the built-form outcomes as well as the future community building services and activities that HousingFirst is preparing for.
Given very few tenants are on each Consultative Committee, will there be an effort from MAB and HousingFirst to consult with tenants face-to-face soon? Rather than 6-12 months out from completed works.
The Client Engagement Team will continue to be available to consult with tenants throughout the redevelopment phase. HousingFirst are committed to engaging with tenants that will take up their right of return, and may also attend information / drop-in sessions as appropriate. MAB’s primary interface will be via the Community Consultative Committees – tenants should consult with their representative members of the CCCs for information transfer.
Policies and procedures are different in community housing-managed properties than in public housing – can tenants get assurances that the same policies, procedures and protections will apply to them?
Under the Management Services Agreement, HousingFirst must provide (and update when necessary) Service Delivery Plans. These plans must be in accordance with the regulatory framework for registered housing associations under the Housing Act. Further, all protocols, policies and procedures of HousingFirst must comply with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic).
Also, HousingFirst and the department will implement a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) regime, and HousingFirst is obligated to regularly survey tenants to demonstrate their satisfaction with the tenancy management services.
Based on your advice, it is our understanding that the redeveloped properties managed by HousingFirst will not have to abide precisely by the same operational guidelines/policies and procedures as Director of Housing-managed properties – they will just need to comply with the regulatory framework for registered housing associations under the Housing Act and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. Is this correct?
The Service Delivery Plans provided by HousingFirst must be submitted for review by the Director of Housing. Any comments or conditions provided by the Director of Housing must be addressed by HousingFirst before proceeding with the related services. This provides the Director of Housing the opportunity to ensure HousingFirst’s Service Delivery Plans meet the Director’s expectations.
Can you please confirm in writing that the management transfers on these estates make up a part of the 4,000 management transfers announced in 2017?
The Director of Housing is yet to determine how, when and which properties will be selected for management transfer to registered community housing agencies on a long-term basis. The properties will still be owned by the Director of Housing.
Will all new properties have reverse cycle air conditioning? We know they will have a 7-star energy rating, but have not been specifically told if this includes air conditioning.
Yes, air conditioning is included in the plans for the new social housing dwellings that will be owned by the Director of Housing.