ACT Government cruel evictions

Nasty treatment of Housing ACT tenants

Earlier this year 330 Housing ACT tenants received the same soulless unsigned eviction notice.

This robotic-bureaucratic deadpan letter was sent to the selected tenants with no thought of what effect it would have on people’s mental and physical health. The last six months have been hell for many of these people.

Recently the two eviction ministers, Rebecca Vassarotti and Yvette Berry, had a piece of praise about their program published in local media. This was a more robotic callous spin. This is their new normal. They use the press to publish disingenuous disinformation whenever they are questioned about their cruel and heartless program of evictions.

On March 30 the North Canberra Community Council (NCCC) wrote to the eviction ministers about a series of issues and proposed an alternative approach to the evictions. The ministers had a bureaucrat write to the NCCC using bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo saying nothing about the issues raised.

The bureaucrat was reminded that their letter was sent to the ministers Rebecca Vassarotti and Yvette Berry and that the NCCC awaited their responses.

In early July, the NCCC received a letter from the ministers. Not surprisingly in the era of autocratic government, their robo-letter also did not address the issues raised. It was verbose marketing justifying why they were ruthlessly pursuing the involuntary removal of older people.

On Tuesday evening (July 12), the Inner South Canberra Community Council (ISCCC) held a well-attended forum to discuss the dreadful ACT government evictions.

One mid-ranking Housing ACT executive attended to represent the eviction ministers. The other speakers were Dr Emma Campbell, CEO ACTCOSS; Jon Stanhope, former chief minister; Dr Khalid Ahmed, specialist on housing data and ACT financial arrangements, and Dr David Denham, of the Griffith Narrabundah Community Association.

There was a stark contrast between the government’s bland justification for the cruelty being handed out and the other speakers’ passions for transparency, justice, fairness and concerns for human beings.

Gauging by the letters received by others and the ISCCC presentation on Tuesday night, Housing ACT is led by “thought leaders” (think CIT new management) who speak their own language and believe that the rest of us do not know how to manage stuff. We should shut up and let them get on with things no matter how cruel and wrong their actions are.

The other four presenters had a different take on Housing ACT – with its outstanding failures, its mismanagement of the portfolio of houses, its cruel behaviour towards tenants, and that these heartless actions are being carried out with the encouragement of both ACT Labor and the ACT Greens.

On the night, Vassarotti and Shane Rattenbury (who often attend ISCCC meetings) found they had other important stuff to do. They left their thought leader executive to present on this thoroughly horrible program. He failed to convince me.

As Stanhope mused, when first presented with this plan of evicting mainly older people from their homes, did the ACT Greens think that this was a great idea? One wonders what the ACT Greens and their so-called community partners stand for in 2022. Trust in the ACT Greens and those community organisations that are assisting with these evictions is not high.

Figures presented on the night illustrated how the ACT was going backwards on social housing per head of population. This “Greenslabor” government regularly announces generous budgets for allocations of social housing – with only a fraction of this is being spent. Rhetoric does not match the reality – part of building the better farce.

This data makes it clear why they are wanting to shove people and their possessions out the door. They need these sales to partly substitute for the millions not being spent. Local developers are doing well out of the subsequent high-priced developments (forget affordable housing). In the end this program of housing sales and forced evictions will deliver almost no growth in the number of social housing in Canberra.

Southside residents have embraced their social-housing neighbours. There used to be many housing tenants in these suburbs. Residents have been left wondering where so many of these people have gone. Possibly thousands were moved out of blocks of units now bulldozed and rebuilt as expensive apartments to be sold commercially (forget affordable housing). Despite promises made, there is no social housing allocated within the new apartment complexes being built on former social-housing sites.

Stanhope wondered how such a program of cruelty towards older tenants, many being women, is not being more widely criticised by the Canberra community. It seems that thanks to the disinformation campaigns, residents have accepted that governments can be nasty to those not so well off – in many cases older and disadvantaged.

Ministers Vassarotti and Berry and Housing ACT are happy to continue with a process of evictions that lacks transparency and is causing deep distress to many older persons. To others what they are witnessing is a campaign of government-sanctioned terror.

Given that they have been successful at suppressing information and shutting down objections to their insensitive behaviours, what will this disconnected Greenslabor government do next?

Will there be Housing ACT awards handed out to the two ministers and their community partners for their robo-eviction successes?

Big thanks to the ISCCC. The presentations were powerful stuff, especially how people are being misled and the harm being done – unnecessarily. The recording of the session is available on youtube – with the eviction presentations commencing at about 28 minutes.

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This article is a version of the piece originally published online with City News

Paul Costigan is a commentator on cultural and urban matters

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