Hitting lowest of low: pensioner

The Housing Authority sent tenants letters last month advising them that rent would increase to 25 per cent of all their income, including pensions, allowances and benefits, from March 28.

Previously the rate was calculated as 25 per cent of wages, but a lower proportion of some benefits, and excluding many others.

Jindalee resident Christine Nagel (68) said her rent would increase by about $18 a fortnight, bringing her weekly payments to a total of $108.40.

“That works out to a lot of money for me over the year. I was paying 15 per cent of my income, which is just a pension; now they want 25 per cent. They are hitting the lowest of the low. That’s so unfair on all of us,” she said.

Ms Nagel said she had not had an increase in her pension, but the Housing Authority letter showed it would include all the allowances people received as income when it calculated the rents.

Housing Authority acting service delivery general manager Peter Lonsdale said the changes would ensure a “simpler, more sustainable and fairer” rent calculation method for all tenants.

“Payments received by any member of a household which is continuous and regular in nature and provided to meet the cost of living will be considered as assessable income,” he said.

“The list of exemptions and discounts has until now been complex to administer and often difficult for public housing tenants to understand. These changes are being implemented to address historic inequities; some tenants have paid less than 20 per cent of income, while others have paid up to 25 per cent.”

Mr Lonsdale said the increase would be capped at $12 per week this financial year.

“Any additional change in household income or family circumstances since the last rent assessment will also trigger a change,” he said. “No one in public housing households will pay more than 25 per cent of their assessable income in rent, or market rent, whichever is lower.”

Mr Lonsdale said the State Government provided subsidised public housing to more than 35,000 low income households.