IT'S A DISGRACE: The Queensland Government's apparent inability to recoup the clean-up costs of public housing tenants' drug labs is a disgrace, says columnist Colin Claridge.
IT'S A DISGRACE: The Queensland Government's apparent inability to recoup the clean-up costs of public housing tenants' drug labs is a disgrace, says columnist Colin Claridge. alexsl

Opinion: Government not keen on tackling housing crisis

A HOME. Shelter. A roof over one's head.

It's one of those things most would consider to be an inalienable right. But it's one of those rights that society has often struggled providing. Especially in times of economic crises.

In such times as the 20th century progressed, government (particularly at state level) became proactive through their housing commissions in the construction of low-cost rental housing.

Particularly, the post-World War II boom period saw many pockets of Housing Commission homes spring up.

Many examples of these three bedroom, one bathroom weatherboards remain. Tenants would pay a set percentage of their household income, thus ensuring struggling families did not face the stress of the private rental market.

But unfortunately, like many things, governments have more or less reneged on that responsibility; preferring to leave the issue increasingly to the private sector. Hence, more and more low-income earners are left to the mercies of the law of supply and demand.

Shelter as an inalienable right has somewhat diminished in the list of government priorities, with particularly the past two decades witnessing a decline in the construction of affordable housing and governments seemingly unable to solve the problem of long waiting lists.

Public housing has become a precious commodity.

So it staggers belief that there exists among us a group of ferals actively engaged in abusing the system. This week's revelation of the cost to Queensland taxpayers to clean up after tenants' drug labs is a disgrace.

The fact that this seems to be an occurrence of some regularity is concerning on many fronts:

The waste of precious funds assigned to public housing and the apparent inability by the Queensland Government to recoup the clean-up costs from the offenders.

The absolute offensiveness of a situation where a precious community resource is being blatantly abused, depriving the desperate and deserving of accommodation.

The inevitable and unfair aspersions that this story will cast upon all public housing tenants. Once again, a tiny minority spoils it for everyone else.

Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of this story is the revelation that the Queensland Government seems powerless to prevent these offenders from being put back on the public housing list.

Granted, everyone (even these individuals) have to live somewhere but the Queensland Government has to explain why anyone who abuses the system in such a criminal way deserves a second chance ahead of someone who would treasure a home.

Possibly the only message that the Government is sending is that they are a bunch of mugs.

The fact that the Queensland Government has allowed this situation to continue just has a whiff of incompetence about it.

But to be fair, this is just one more thing to add to the list of problems that are the result of successive governments showing little interest in tackling the housing crisis.

Looking at the current rental affordability situation, it is one a couple of decades in the making; as governments of both colours have abrogated one of their core responsibilities in favour of letting free enterprise sort it out.

Nothing against free enterprise but if you can rent your house for $500/wk, why would you rent it for $300 to someone on a low income?

It's that gap government was supposed to be responsible for.

But then, one also has to wonder if government is all that interested in the homeless, aside from the occasional photo opportunity.

One assumes that without a fixed abode, these people ultimately slip off the electoral rolls. So, if they don't vote, what do they matter... right?

Gympie Times


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