Social housing policy in Australia targets assistance to households with low incomes and complex support needs, and as a consequence, social landlords have a larger role in relation to crime and anti-social behaviour. This research reviewed social housing tenancies law and policies in five jurisdictions, and national policy principles and frameworks relating to four types of vulnerable people: women affected by domestic violence; children; Indigenous persons; and people affected by alcohol and other drugs.
Housing policy in Australia has enlarged the role of social landlords in relation to crime and non-criminal anti-social behaviour (‘misconduct’).
Recent developments include ‘three strikes’ policies and legislative amendments intended to facilitate termination proceedings and evictions.
This research focused on social housing legal responses and termination proceedings in relation to four types of vulnerable persons and families:
- women, particularly as affected by domestic violence and other male misconduct
- Indigenous persons and families
- persons who problematically use alcohol and other drugs.
We reviewed residential tenancies law and social housing policies in five jurisdictions—New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory—and national policy principles and frameworks relating to the four vulnerable types.
We also reviewed 95 cases of social housing legal responses to misconduct and interviewed stakeholders in social housing landlord and tenant organisations.
We found cases of:
- women held to be in breach and evicted because of violence against them
- children being evicted, and insufficient safeguards as to their interests
- complicated circumstances and barriers to support for Indigenous tenants
- alcohol and drug treatment disrupted by punitive termination proceedings.
Policy development options include moving offers of support out of the shadow of termination, tenancy law reform and closer integration of social housing policy with leading frameworks in other policy areas.
'The cases involving drug offences, in particular, show a punitive approach, with very minor offences, or offences involving visitors or family members often resulting in termination proceedings. In some cases, tenants are evicted even though the criminal justice system outcome is to allow rehabilitation at home.’ Chris Martin, University of New South Wales.