by GRACE JOHNSON
The Minns Labor government has announced that it will overhaul the current system of maintaining its 95,000 social housing properties as part of the greater push to reduce the outsourcing of services to the private sector.
In an effort to improve long wait times that social housing tenants face for basic repairs in their homes, the government will not renew contracts with four private operators when they expire next year.
The government will instead bring the management of maintenance complaints in-house under Homes NSW, allocating repair work to local tradespeople.
For the first time, tenants will be able to see the progress of their maintenance request through an app. Previously, they had no way of knowing when repairs would be carried out.
Premier Chris Minns said, “Everyone deserves access to safe and secure shelter without having to jump through hoops to ensure essential maintenance is done.”
“We have a housing crisis in New South Wales, and we are working across the government to address the challenges, including maintaining the liveability of our social housing properties.”
The new model will also deliver better results by determining costs through a pre-agreed schedule of rates, rather than under a scope and quote process, which causes delays to work being undertaken.
Restoring dignity to social housing
Minister for Housing Rose Jackson said bringing back maintenance of social housing would “restore dignity, respect and hope to our social housing tenants and the social housing system in NSW.”
“Homes NSW will bring social housing delivery, maintenance and tenancy management under the one roof, to ensure tenants no longer fall through the cracks trying to get basic issues resolved,” she continued.
The new approach will also see stronger support for small businesses, local tradies and local jobs, as well as new jobs created for disability and community service providers, Aboriginal trades and businesses and social housing tenants.
Greens member Jenny Leong MP described the announcement as “testament to the tireless work and campaigning of public housing tenants and housing justice activists who, with the Greens, have pushed for this for years.”
Ms Leong said bringing maintenance into Homes NSW is a welcome first step.
“Next, we want to see the privatisation agenda completely ended by stopping the demolition and sell-off of public housing estates like Waterloo and Explorer St.”
Under the current maintenance contracts with private providers, public housing tenants have to deal with “outrageously slow response times, poor workmanship, contractor no-shows, and endless wait times for simple jobs,” said Ms Leong.
“To make sure these problems aren’t replicated under Homes NSW, we need to see massive investment in maintenance, stringent selection criteria for contractors, and the ability for tenants to give feedback on maintenance work – and have this feedback heard,” she continued.
“Over the next few months we’ll be watching closely to make sure we don’t see a further decline in service quality from private providers as they wait for their contracts to end.”