Fears testing will hurt poorest


Noranda resident Rebecca Anderson.
Picture: Andrew Ritchie        www.communitypix.com.au   d450699
Noranda resident Rebecca Anderson. Picture: Andrew Ritchie        www.communitypix.com.au d450699

The WA Housing Authority has broadened its definition of income to make calculating public housing rent fairer, a move that is set to affect 77 per cent of tenants – some 28,000 people.

From the end of the month, assessable income will now include allowances such as Veterans’ Affairs payments and family tax benefit supplements as well as bereavement, pharmaceutical and multiple birth allowances.

Ms Sanderson said the changes would place extra financial burden on the “poorest and most vulnerable” and called on the Government to reverse its decision.

“WA now has the harshest regime for assessable income by far and includes payments even the Australian Tax Office don’t include like travel allowance,” she said.

“(Housing Minister Colin Holt) claims the changes are fairer because everyone will pay 25 per cent of their income, but one of the things about social housing and Government supplements is that everybody needs different amounts of help.”

Noranda single mother Rebecca Anderson, a part-time home care worker who suffers chronic back pain from a spinal injury, lives in a Housing Authority home with her 14-year-old daughter who has been diagnosed with serious mental health issues.

Her rent was set to increase from $191 to $216 under the proposed changes – $25 a week or $100 a month.

“I was allocated a mobility allowance to get around… they have now deemed it as income and want to take 25 per cent of that, they also want to take 25 per cent of my pharmaceutical allowance – they’re very minimal amounts already,” she said.

“If it goes through it’s really going to impact our home.”

Ms Anderson said that she wanted to do a Certificate IV to further her career, make more money and get out of public housing but could not afford the Tafe fees.

However, Mr Holt said all states set public housing rent as a proportion of income, with 25 per cent the general standard.

He said the changes were “fairer” and sought to address the many anomalies and inequities where many tenants pay less than 25 per cent of their income in rent.

Mr Holt said increases in rent would be capped at $12 per week.

“If any household is getting an increase of more than $12 per week, it is because of an increase in their household income, and that increase would have occurred regardless of the new policy,” he said.

He said tenants who believe they will be adversely affected should contact their local Housing Authority office.

Mr Holt said that the Housing Authority had been asked to review benefits, payments and allowances to make sure that they were considered assessable income.