RLC's Response to NSW Government’s Homelessness Strategy 2018-2023

In January 2021, RLC made submissions to the Audit Office of NSW Responses to Homelessness audit – Response to the NSW Government’s Homelessness Strategy 2018-23 ('The Strategy').

This audit is considering whether actions in the Strategy are effectively implemented and producing outcomes in reducing homelessness, and whether the department’s response to COVID-19 for people experiencing homelessness was effective.

RLC's submission highlights our concerns about the effectiveness of the current processes identified in the Strategy in supporting the prevention of homelessness. We endorse the submission provided by the Tenants’ Union of NSW, and provide recommendations as a supplement to these concerns. 

RLC's views in summary

Access to housing is a human right. Having a safe and secure house in which to reside is essential to the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of a community. Housing also influences the sense of belonging experienced by individuals.

Within NSW, the housing system has failed to ensure that everyone has access to safe, secure and affordable housing. As a result, vulnerable renting households in both the private and social housing rental markets have an increased risk of entering into homelessness.

RLC has assisted a large number of tenants who are at risk of homelessness with advice, advocacy and representation. In 2020, RLC gave 1901 advice sessions and approximately 550 related to termination.

RLC endorses the submission provided by the Tenants’ Union of NSW.

We provide the following short submission and recommendations as a supplement to the concerns raised by the Tenants Union. RLC provides this submission in response to Focus Areas 1.2 and 3.3 of the Strategy. 

Our submission focuses on the experience of social housing tenants and the impact of COVID-19 in increasing the risk of homelessness within the Inner Sydney area.

RLC has identified the following concerns with the effectiveness of focus areas 1.2 and 3.3 of the Strategy in producing outcomes to reduce homelessness:

  • Focus Area 1.2: The tendency for social housing providers to pursue termination as a first step rather than a last resort.
  • Focus Area 3.3: Lack of trauma-informed and culturally appropriate practice by front-line housing provider staff.

In terms of the government’s response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, RLC is concerned that there has been an unwillingness to provide adequate protections to renters who have been affected by COVID-19.

We note that the actions identified in the Strategy also have significant implications for renters in the private rental market where there are also insufficient protections in place to support vulnerable renters. As our submission will largely focus on the experience of our social housing clients, RLC refers to the submission provided by the Tenants Union to highlight the wider implications for renters within the private rental market.

RLC's submission makes the following recommendations:

  1. DCJ should form local partnerships with support services and non-government organisations and commit to actively referring a tenant to these services before engaging in any action to terminate a tenancy.
     
  2. In order to ensure a trauma informed and culturally appropriate service, all social housing providers should be required to recruit staff with skills and expertise in trauma informed care and culturally appropriate service provision, and provide regular training and supervision in trauma informed care and culturally appropriate service provision.
     
  3. The COVID-19 amendments to the Act and the Regulations should be amended to include a requirement that landlords are required to reduce the rent where a tenant can demonstrate that they have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, legislation should be created to ensure that tenants are not crippled by the debts accrued through rental arrears during the COVID-19 pandemic. The amendments to the Act and Regulations should be extended until at least the end of 2021.

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