Thursday 3 June 2004 - Estimates Committee A (Llewellyn

Home Ownership Assistance and Streets Ahead

[11.15 a.m.]
Mr FINCH - My question is in respect of the Home Ownership Assistance Program and Streets Ahead -

Mr LLEWELLYN - Can I just say one other thing with regard to HOAP. Of course, you would have noticed in the Affordable Housing Strategy that we have increased the actual borrowing ability. It was at $80 000. It has now been extended to $100 000 on properties. I mentioned before - and you are asking about the Streets Ahead program now and did not finish the question - that before, the amount of money that was available to people under the Streets Ahead program, if they put equity into their houses and so on, was judged on a sliding scale. But in the Affordable Housing Strategy we considered that and now we are prepared to make a block amount of $6 000 for eligible people in that. In effect with $6 000 plus $4 000 stamp duty relief plus $7 000 if they are a new home owner, they have a deposit of some $17 000 and they can buy - if the property is less than $100 000 - under HOAP to purchase their home.

Mr FINCH - I see the increase from this home ownership assistance is up 109.4 per cent. So this scheme is working and you feel confident about this, moving into the future with the Affordable Housing Strategy?

Mr LLEWELLYN - Obviously there is a bit of pressure on the scheme now, given the increases in prices of homes, and we have an obligation to continually - I think it is on a six?monthly basis - re?assess the HOA program, to see how it is going. We have reports at cabinet level about it and the number of homes that have been purchased under the scheme has been reducing because of the value that we placed on it, the $80 000. Lifting it up to $100 000, I think will bring them up again and certainly there is an ongoing review that has been promised as well. The things that need to be assessed in that review are an analysis of the existing product's effectiveness, details of programs operating in other jurisdictions, details of loan products that could support the objective of the Affordable Housing Strategy and recommendations for the future direction of HOAP.

The contract that was with Tassie Home Loans to assist us in delivering this particular product expired and is being extended through to the end of this year so we will be looking at it through the rest of this year before we determine where we go with that in the future.

Mr FINCH - Is that the review time line, through to the end of the year?


Mr DEAN - Minister, I note from the last annual report that I think through that year Housing Tasmania were able to provide rent to about 1 300 new households. That is rental properties? That is not properties that were bought, new properties or built properties, that was just gained rental?

Mr LLEWELLYN - It may be new properties that were being built and rented but -

Ms BRESNEHAN - What was the question?

Mr LLEWELLYN - The question was how many properties we actually -

Ms BRESNEHAN - How many households we assist per year?

Mr DEAN - Yes.

Mr LLEWELLYN - There are some more up?to?date figures here. In fact the year to date, about 108 a month, and the year to date is 1 158. The benchmark we have tried to work towards is 130 per month.

Mr DEAN - And that is for this financial year, Minister, is it?

Mr LLEWELLYN - The year to date.

Ms BRESNEHAN - What that means is, we have a portfolio of properties and there are people living in those properties so the number we are able to assist are the number of vacancies and the number of new people that are assisted in that year. So at any given time, there are people leaving and going, it is a moveable feast, and there were about 108 of those transactions last month and over the year.

Mr LLEWELLYN - Earlier on you asked for more specific details but the waiting list is 3 213 and of that number 335 are category 1. The overall waiting time to house a person - 66 per cent of households are allocated a house in less than three months and, in regard to that, Tasmania is still the best-performing State or Territory on this measure and well above the national average, which is 35 per cent.

Mr DEAN - Is the waiting list diminishing or is it growing?

Ms BRESNEHAN - It is slowly growing.

Mr DEAN - It is slowly growing so we are not getting on top of that at all? And is that in all categories or across the board?

Ms BRESNEHAN - Across the board, but the number of people with high, complex needs - that element - is also growing, within the total waiting list.

Mr DEAN - I mentioned in this venue last year also that there is a concern or a perception amongst the public that when a house becomes vacant, the house remains vacant for a long period of time. I think there was an undertaking given in this venue last year that every effort would be made to try to cut the period of time between the house becoming vacant and the house being occupied again.

Mr LLEWELLYN - We made that comment a little earlier on, that the national benchmark is 28 days and we are currently 28.1 days. The reason for that - and we are trying to reduce this and I know Housing Tasmania work on this particular issue to try to get a quicker throughput - there is a policy that once a tenant goes out of a house it has to be inspected. I think in 90 per cent of the cases they need to be painted and redecorated and that sort of thing so that the new tenant comes into a fresh home. To get people organised through maintenance contracts and so on, as you would appreciate, 28 days is not a long period of time but if the house is sitting there vacant for a week and there is a long waiting list and people can see it, they will be concerned.

Mr DEAN - If a person is out there living in a car and there is a house vacant, it is a long time.

Ms BRESNEHAN - Where we often struggle with the public perception is occasionally we have properties which we have identified for demolition. We might knock down a house and put two or three new units back on that same property. It is old and it is not useful in the portfolio anymore, we might do that and so it is those ones that tend to come to the public's attention. They have been withdrawn from stock, they do not fit within the 28-day cycle and they might sit there for a bit longer until we get the capital program going, and they are the ones that often people have a reaction to.

Mr DEAN - My next question - and I think you partly covered it - is about the Affordable Housing Strategy. What criteria does a person have to meet to be able to buy a Housing Tasmania home? We do not sell to developers; we do not sell to people in the upper echelons, I guess, as it were -

Mr LLEWELLYN - This is the 150 a year you are talking about? They have to be a tenant of Housing Tasmania to qualify to purchase a home. The ones we are looking at at the moment are by targeting those in those areas that we mentioned - Bridgewater and Clarendon Vale, Shorewell, Rocherlea and so on. Obviously they would need to be tenants in those homes and that is where we would want to try to encourage people because I think it is a very good opportunity for people to look at the prospect of buying, particularly if they - and in the main they do - qualify for first home ownership, the $17 000 upfront and the HOAP program and so on. Many of them, if they analyse their financial arrangements, will find that they are paying less money than they would be by renting a property from Housing Tasmania to buy their home and they will own it.

Mr DEAN - It is a great strategy. The next question is in relation to the department's policy with regard to two people when you have joint tenants in a home and those joint tenants leave the home and in fact leave it in a mess, there is damage done and so on and there is a recovery of damages necessary. What is the policy in regard to that in recovery of any costs and damages? We had an example recently in a northern suburb of Launceston where two people were in a home, they both left because they did not do the right thing. The lady was 18 years, the guy was 27 years and the recovery was against the young girl only because she was the only one they could catch up with. This is the reason I want to know what the policy is and whether there is a policy.

Mr LLEWELLYN - The policy is to lease the property, and I think properties are only leased to an individual.

Ms BRESNEHAN - Whoever's names are on the lease is who we can hold legally -

Mr DEAN - If both names are on the lease?

Ms BRESNEHAN - If both names are on the lease, they are both are culpable.

Mr DEAN - Not just one?

Ms BRESNEHAN - No, both. Whoever is on the lease is responsible.

Mr DEAN - Thank you very much for that.

I am just interested in the Dover Village update. I think there are to be 32 units there and I think you have about that many units there anyway.

Ms BRESNEHAN - Not at the moment.

Mr WHITE - There are some adjoining units on adjoining land but the land you are talking about with the 32 is currently vacant.

Mr DEAN - Are the Dover Village current structures being updated? I think that came out here last year as well. There was some comment on the fact that there was going to be money provided to do some renovation work there to try to make it a more attractive area.

Mr WHITE - The existing units we do not have an upgrading program for at the moment. They are on the left?hand side as you come in. It is on the right?hand side that we are looking at a new development. The new development will be designed to blend in and complement what is in the surrounding area. We also intend to have two or three -

Mr DEAN - As long as they do not complement the existing ones.

Mr WHITE - No. They will be up to the latest standards in terms of design and energy efficiency, privacy and other issues. We are also looking at having two or three blocks available in that area that could be made available for low-income earners to buy and build on, just to give us a bit of a mix. And the upgrading of the units would be looked at as part of our ongoing capital investment program.

Mr DEAN - That is due to commence his year, you were saying?

Mr WHITE - This financial year. The final design work is just being done at Dover Street at the moment.

Mrs JAMIESON - With all due respect, Minister, I would have to say your Devonport officers are very frustrated by the soft policies and the time taken to deal with issues, and I know I have 31 requests for assistance this year and they are tied up with intimidation, mental health issues and things like that. People who are inappropriately placed in Housing department units have mental health problems as well. I am interested in the cost of the block in East Devonport and the likely starting time of any development there - the one that was bought in East Devonport next door to the primary school.

Mr LLEWELLYN - I do not know. Peter would probably be able to tell you that.

Mr WHITE - We paid $400 000 for the block of land at East Devonport, Tarleton Street, which was 1.5 hectares. We are currently very similar to the timetable on Dover Street, looking at design options on that block. We have a couple of options there that we will be looking at. We are also looking to incorporate on that land some sort of private sector partnership for delivery of affordable housing. We still have not gone out to the market on that part of it but we intend to keep part of the site vacant for a development along those lines. One scenario could be elderly persons units with maybe some supported accommodation. Another one may be a first home ownership type of program.

Mrs JAMIESON - So you have to get started in the next 15 to 20 months?

Mr WHITE - I would anticipate construction commencing there by the end of the calendar year.

[11.30 a.m.]
Mrs JAMIESON - What is the youngest age that a person can take out a contract with the Housing department? Do we have any numbers on how many there might be? Is it an increasing number of people? It is eighteen, is it?

Mr LLEWELLYN - The age is eighteen.

Ms BRESNEHAN - For rental or for own home ownership? For rental it is 18. I am not sure what the numbers are.

Mrs JAMIESON - It does not have to be right now. Are the numbers increasing?

Ms BRESNEHAN - Of younger people?

Mrs JAMIESON - Of younger people, yes. I looked on page 164 where you are saying that the numbers of youth under 25 are coming down. I would suggest that you would need to revise that up if we are going to have a slow-down in building projects and what have you because if the numbers are increasing then you have a bit of a problem in some areas, I can assure you. I was also wondering about the cost and the number of houses that have had to be rebuilt or virtually refurbished and the cost to the department of anybody who has been wrecking their houses. There have been a few in the Devonport area, for example, over the past 12 months or so - houses that are made unlivable and you have got to spend x number of dollars. I do not have to have that answer right now, if you would like to take that on notice.

Mr LLEWELLYN - There are two categories here: houses that are damaged and the ongoing maintenance bill. We have talked about the total maintenance bill but we could probably break that up into the categories that you are interested in.

Mrs JAMIESON - They seem to be one of the problems.

Mr LLEWELLYN - The other thing is that some people have had houses burn down so they are replaced. They make it difficult for us to build the numbers up again. In regard to that, the Tasmanian Risk Management Fund, which is part of the Government's way of handling those issues; we are effectively an insurance company in our own right but Housing Tasmania have to pay the premium along with all the other agencies in that process. Relating to malicious damage, we have recorded that in 2003-04 to date there have been 850 claims and $262 000 has been spent.