[singlepic id=436 w=320 h=240 float=left] Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt will today meet with public housing tenants in Cairns to discuss increasing concerns over the Newman Government’s public housing upheaval.

Mr Pitt said alarm has spread through the public housing system after the Housing Minister Bruce Flegg personally wrote to every tenant outlining the Newman Government’s cold-hearted attitude to its own tenants.

“This is not a compassionate Government, it is one that clearly has no heart,” Mr Pitt said.

“In recent weeks the Opposition have been meeting with concerned public housing tenants and tenant representatives across Queensland – all very worried about the Newman Government’s new public housing shakeup and its uncaring attitude to people on very limited incomes.

“The Newman Government wants to make tenants with a spare bedroom move to smaller properties, pay a higher rent, or share with strangers on the waiting list.

“My office has been flooded with calls from older and vulnerable people – frightened because they may be forced to downsize or share with strangers. Many have been in tears.

“Today I’ll meet with tenants in Cairns to discuss the ramifications of the Newman Government’s plan to forcibly move public housing tenants with empty bedrooms into smaller dwellings or force them into the private market where rents are much higher.

“Many public housing tenants were elderly, others were people with a disability and did not deserve the treatment being handed out by their landlord — the Newman Government.

“This kind of uncertainty or instability will turn their lives upside down.

“Mr Flegg’s plan is designed to turn the provision of social housing to low-income individuals and families into something it is not meant to be – a profit-making business.”

Funding for Tenant Participation Program axed

To add insult to injury, each of the operating tenant groups in Queensland that receives funding under the $350,000 per year Tenant Participation Program will receive a letter informing them their funding will cease after 30 June 2012.

“As reported by the National Tenant Support Network, Mr Flegg has effectively silenced tenant advocates who have so vocally expressed concern over the LNP’s outrageous policy changes,” Mr Pitt said.

“At a time when tenants need the information and support of their local advocacy group more than ever, the Government gives four days’ notice to axe a program that has been running for more than two decades with excellent outcomes.

“The decision extends to the 2012 Garden Awards which were open to all social housing tenants, including people living in community and local government-managed housing.

“This would’ve been the 16th year the awards which publicly recognised and rewarded tenants who cared for their rental properties through gardening and showed pride in their homes.

“The letter encourages tenant groups to continue doing their work as if nothing has changed, but without the funding support many will not even be able to continue to keep a phone line or have internet access to advocate for public housing tenants.”

Undermining public housing

Mr Pitt said the LNP’s so-called reforms open the door to the large-scale sale of public housing assets, rent rises and forced transfers or evictions for longstanding and loyal tenants and the sacking of tenancy management staff.

“As a bare minimum, Mr Flegg as landlord for all Department of Housing tenants must guarantee each of them that they will not be disadvantaged by his efforts to exit the provision of affordable housing for those who cannot access the private rental market,” Mr Pitt said.

“In particular those individuals and families living in the 8,700 dwellings Mr Flegg has identified as under-occupied must be guaranteed a suitable roof over their heads in the same community where they choose to live now.

“Undermining the public housing system also puts pressure on the stressed private housing market where many families are already competing to find affordable housing.

“Mr Flegg must explain what he means by ‘changing and simplifying rent policy’. I suspect it means rent rises all round, at the same time the Newman Government talks about cutting the cost of living.

“In a letter I received from the Minister yesterday, he suggested that the Housing portfolio was ‘dominated by Centrelink dependents’ as though anyone in receipt of federal government assistance was somehow a burden on the system and less worthy of the State’s support.

“This statement is the clearest indication yet about this Government’s attitude to older and vulnerable Queenslanders in public housing.

“Public housing rent is one cost of living measure Mr Newman and Mr Flegg can control directly, so now we will see how genuine they are about addressing cost of living pressures.”

The Opposition has launched a statewide petition calling on the Newman Government to give guarantees that existing tenants would not be disadvantaged.

Sign the e-petition today http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/petitions/e-petition?PetNum=1917