High quality research, policy development and advocacy on the needs of tenants 2015-2016

Our research, policy development and advocacy work continues to be both proactive and responsive covering a wide range of tenancy issues including:

  • Community housing
  • Family and Community Services (FACS) Housing policy and practice
  • Older tenants
  • Tax and housing
  • Residential Parks
  • Marginal renters

Social Housing

We have continued to engage with Family and Community Services (Housing) through a range of forums, including the NGO Housing Partners Reference Group and the Future Directions Forum.

We contributed to discussion around the social housing ‘anti-social behaviour’ reforms. These were introduced into Parliament in mid-2015 without consultation with tenants or workers across the community services sector. Through lobbying from the Tenants’ Union, in conjunction with others from the Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Services and several Community Legal Centres, some of the harshest aspects of these reforms were modified before becoming part of NSW law.
We gave evidence to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into the management of public housing repairs and maintenance contracts.

We contributed our expertise to the Expert Advisory Panel on the Social and Affordable Housing Fund, and have kept track of developments under the Communities Plus initiative on our Clearing House blog. We participate in the Living Communities Consultative Committee of the Land and Housing Corporation. We have also
collaborated with Shelter NSW to develop a ‘Tenant Compact’, to advocate for tenant focused relocation processes during redevelopment of the social housing portfolio. We have and will continue to engage with the significant policy implications of Future Directions for Social Housing.

Tenants in strata

We contributed to the reform of NSW strata laws with formal submissions and participation in a number of targeted consultations.

Renting laws

We made a significant contribution to the statutory review of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. This commenced with our report
“5 years of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 in NSW” and concluded with a comprehensive submission to NSW Fair Trading’s targeted discussion paper. In the meantime we hosted a roundtable meeting with 22 other non government organisations who also contributed to the review.

Older tenants

We have contributed to discussions about ageing in the private rental market, with a particular focus on the challenges for older women. We provided an article for Inner Sydney Voice, Autumn 2016 called ‘Older renters: the new face of poverty’ and have distributed it widely. We are active in the Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness Group and assisted them with the submission to the Residential Tenancies Act Review. We lodged a submission to a NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into elder abuse, citing Government policy in Millers Point as a form of systemic abuse.

We provided regular support to TAAS workers on older renter issues, especially protected tenancies and hoarding.

Residential Parks

The residential parks landscape changed on 1 November 2015 with the commencement of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 and the associated Regulation.

You can read elsewhere about our substantial education program to inform residents of these changes.

The Residential Parks Forum continues to grow and thrive. Again we facilitated four meetings attended by resident representatives and tenant advocates. Most recently we have been discussing the new Act – how it’s working and being interpreted by residents, operators and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Millers Point

We contributed a submission to NSW Department of Heritage and Environment regarding the Sirius Building, Millers Point, recommending it be listed on the State Heritage Register.

We are an active member of Friends of Millers Point who provide support to tenants of this important Inner Sydney public housing and heritage listed community. We have assisted ‘Friends’ and, in turn, the Millers Point Community Working Party with information, drafting letters, publications and lobbying and have participated in their activities. We are represented on the Millers Point Estates Advisory Board. We maintain a database on the sales of properties in Millers Point which we share. We publish on our Blogs – both The Brown Couch and The Clearing House – updated information on Millers Point and the Sirius Building. We have assisted Professor Alan Morris of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology Sydney in his study for Shelter NSW on the impact of forced relocation on the residents. We advocate strongly for the remaining residents staying and, especially, the older ones being able to age-in-place.

Tax and housing

We contributed to the national discussion around negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts, and remain supportive of tax reform to unwind the distortions of Australia’s housing markets. This includes the publication of a “Tenants’ Guide to Tax Reform”.

We continue to advocate for the introduction of a broad-based land tax, at a state level, to encourage landholders to put their property to the most efficient use.

Influencing key decisions makers

During the year we have had productive discussions with the following decision makers:

  • The Hon. Brad Hazzard, Minister for Social Housing
  • Tania Mihailuk, Shadow Minister for Social Housing
  • Jenny Leong, State Member for Newtown and NSW Greens spokesperson for Fair Trading
  • Julia Finn, State Member for Granville
  • Paul Green MLC, Shooters and Fishers Party
  • Emma Gittoes, Advisor to the Minister for Social Housing, with Paul Vevers, Deputy Secretary of Family and Community Services (Housing Statewide Services)
  • David de Carvahlo, Deputy Secretary of Family and Community Services (Strategic Reform and Policy)
  • Andrew Gavrielotos, Assistant Commissioner of NSW Fair Trading (Real Estate & Property Division)
  • NSW Auditor General’s office regarding Community Housing and tenanted stock transfers
  • Yasmin Catley, Shadow Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation (includes Fair Trading portfolio)
  • Daniel Moohkey MLC
  • Stacey Broadbent, Manager PARS at Registrar of Community Housing
  • Diana Holy, Lachlan Mallard & Ernie Chan, Fair Trading NSW, Residential Tenancies Act review team
  • Real Estate Institute of NSW Committee, Property Management Chapter regarding Residential Tenancies Act review issues

And participated in the following government consultative groups:

  • Energy and Water Consumer Advocacy Program reference group
  • Consultative Committee for NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • Social Housing Fund Advisory Panel
  • Department of Justice, Civil Law Collaboration Group
  • Land and Housing Corporation, Living Communities Consultative Group

Media engagements

As interest in the affordability of housing and in particular renting increases, the TU is sought out for comment and our media engagements continue to grow.  Highlights include:

  • 3 opinion pieces
  • 14 live to air radio interviews
  • 1 live and 2 recorded television interviews
  • Quoted in 27 print media articles
  • Plus a number of media briefings

Topics covered included:

  • Renting with pets
  • Review of the Residential Tenancies Act
  • Homelessness and social housing wait lists
  • NSW Government Social Housing Strategy
  • Storm damage - tenants’ rights
  • Sharehousing
  • Negative gearing
  • Housing affordability
  • Social impact of redevelopment
  • Federal Budget
  • Adverse possession

We posted 65 blog entries and enjoyed a high level of engagement on social media platforms.

Relationships with tenants and non-government organisations on strategic advocacy

We participated in a number of strategic ongoing forums and one-off events to consult, inform and advocate. These included:

  • Forum of non government organisations convened by NCOSS (FONGO)
  • Festival for Civil Society (NCOSS)
  • Disability Network Housing Forum (NCOSS)
  • Residential Parks Forum
  • Housing and Homelessness Alliance
  • CLCs NSW – Law reform and policy committee
  • BEING – mental health consumer conference

The TU maintains positive relationships with tenant participation organisations and social housing tenant groups who provide ongoing feedback on the local impact of state wide policy decisions.

Of course our closest colleagues and partners in this important work are the TAASs whose input, analysis and support underpins our strategic advocacy.


> TU Annual Report 2015-2016 contents