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Adjournment: Public housing ombudsman

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
2 June 2020

My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Housing, and the action I seek is that the government establish a new office of the public housing ombudsman to hear complaints from public housing tenants about the quality and condition of their homes. Our public housing stock has been ignored and neglected for years. Instead of investing in new public housing or refurbishing and upgrading our existing units, the government has ignored public housing and effectively left units to rot. I have heard from the tenants who live in public housing that our ageing units are now suffering a myriad of issues. Tower blocks have no recycling facilities, lifts break down regularly and in some estates there are no lifts at all. In many estates there is a shortage of parking spaces. Laundry facilities are insufficient to meet need or are still waiting on repairs needed months ago. Bathrooms and kitchens are no longer fit for purpose. There is insufficient cooling, so residents are sweltering through our increasingly hot summers. There are issues of disability access, chronic mould issues, overcrowded living conditions and safety concerns—the list goes on.

For those tenants who do wish to complain about the conditions of their homes, the process is unclear and difficult to navigate. Many tenants face language barriers in accessing the complaints process set up by the Department of Health and Human Services, while others may not feel comfortable complaining directly to the department about a service the department itself provides. When they do complain it can take far too long for their issues to be resolved. I know of some public housing residents who have had to follow up with the department as many as 100 times and waited several years for maintenance issues to be addressed. Our public housing tenants deserve better from the department—their landlord—which is why they are mobilising to call for a public housing ombudsman and a charter of rights for residents.

We need an independent body to oversee our public housing sector, to handle issues and complaints from tenants and to monitor the government’s ability to look after our existing public housing stock. Our tenants are calling for a charter of rights to uphold their rights to a safe, secure and livable home. When we have 100 000 Victorians waiting for a public home we cannot afford to abandon our existing units and allow them to fall into disrepair. We cannot ignore the needs of our public housing tenants, who deserve a safe and modern place to call home. I echo the calls of our public housing tenants and ask the government to establish a new office of a public housing ombudsman and codify a charter of rights for our public housing tenants.

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
2 June 2020
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