Qld Government stops short of transferring public housing ownership

May 1, 2013

The Queensland Government has stopped short of accepting the Independent Commission of Audit’s recommendation to transition the ownership and management of the State’s public housing stock to the non-government sector.  The government has, however, stated that it is committed to exploring innovative ways of providing new public housing.

The Commission of Audit, which was established to inquire into the State’s finances and headed by former federal treasurer Peter Costello, recommended Queensland “progressively transition the ownership and management of existing and new public housing stock to the non-government sector, with the scope and time frame for transition to be determined by the sector’s performance and governance capability.”

The audit report recognised that the non-government sector had key service delivery benefits that the public sector did not have.  These included:

  • access to the CRA for tenants in community housing
  • opportunities to achieve and maintain lower operating costs, due to community sector tax concessions and lower corporate overheads
  • the ability to attract alternative sources of revenue, including funds sourced from property development activity
  • opportunities to promote continuous improvement through performance-based contracting.

Community housing was also more cost efficient compared to public housing.  In 2011-12 the net recurrent cost per public housing dwelling in Queensland was $8,294, the second highest of the major states behind WA (see graph below).

The most recent Productivity Commission data for community housing is for 2010-11, and shows the recurrent cost per dwelling in Queensland was the lowest of any mainland state between 2005-06 and 2010-11. Queensland’s per dwelling costs in 2010-11 was just $5,345, significantly lower than the cost for public housing (see graph below).

Government Response

In its response to the Independent Commission of Audit Final Report, the Queensland Government noted the recommendation on public housing, stating:

The Government wholeheartedly accepts its responsibility to deliver housing for disadvantaged and vulnerable Queenslanders. This can be achieved by different models such as private partnerships and management by community housing organisations. The Government commits to exploring innovative ways of providing new public housing stock.

The ABC has reported (http://www NULL.abc NULL.net NULL.au/news/2013-05-01/qld-government-wont-sell-off-all-public-housing/4662712?section=qld) that the Queensland Government is aiming to outsource the management of public and social housing services by 2020.

Housing Minister, Tim Mander, said all tenancy management services will be outsourced. However, “the Government will only transfer public housing titles as part of a larger social development, or in special cases.”

“There will be some selective, small transfer of stock on a case-by-case basis when that will have a net benefit to the state and to public housing tenants, but that definitely won’t be the norm,” he said.

“In the main, there is no reason to transfer the title of the stock because we’ll still get the benefits we’re looking for from the transfer of management”, the Minister said.

The Commission of Audit Final Report and the Queensland Government’s Response can be found on the Queensland Commission of Audit website here (http://www NULL.commissionofaudit NULL.qld NULL.gov NULL.au/).

Tenant Concerns

According to a report on the ABC AM program on Thursday 2 May, some Queensland public housing tenants are fearful about their future because the cash-strapped Queensland Government has revealed it’s considering selling their valuable inner city properties.  The Government has confirmed to AM it commissioned Ernst and Young to investigate options including selling public housing land for private development.

To listen to the AM report click here (http://www NULL.abc NULL.net NULL.au/am/content/2013/s3749766 NULL.htm).

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