The Queensland government has taken steps to tighten generous public housing rules that left properties unoccupied for up to a year while tenants took extended holidays or served prison terms.
Housing minister Tim Mander said under Labor’s old rules, tenants could leave their properties vacant for up to 12 months without putting their tenancies at risk.
“These houses are there to house the most vulnerable members of society. They’re no good to anyone sitting there empty,” Mr Mander said.
“This government promised to revitalise frontline services, something that’s particularly important when we’re dealing with families on low or modest incomes.
“There are still more than 21,000 households on the social housing waiting list and it’s completely unfair to those people to have properties sitting empty for up to a year while the registered tenants are off on extended holidays or sitting in jail.”
Mr Mander said under the new rules breaks for the purposes of taking a holiday would be capped at four weeks, with tenants required to seek departmental approval for anything longer.
“For example, in cases where a tenant is undergoing an extended stay in hospital, or is away due to legitimate work or study commitments, it makes sense to allow a longer absence,” Mr Mander said.
He said the new rules would also put an end to Labor’s old “caretakers” policy, which allowed friends or family of the absent tenant to stay in the property rent free.
“There are still too many households on the waiting list, so it’s vital that our resources go where they’re needed, rather than being squandered where they’re not,” he said.
Last financial year alone, public housing tenants took 285 breaks of between three and 12 months and were absent from their taxpayer subsidised homes for an average of 171 days.