Supporting social housing households
Department of Housing and Public Works – Released 9th April 2020
As the response to COVID-19 evolves, our focus continues to be on Queensland’s most vulnerable and ensuring that access to services and support is delivered to those in need.
It’s never been more important to ensure people do not have to face the prospect of housing uncertainty or homelessness than during this global pandemic. It’s critical from a public health perspective that people can self-isolate in their own homes and this means ensuring that they can remain in their homes for the duration of this crisis.
Stability for our social housing households during the uncertainty of COVID-19 benefits households and providers. We acknowledge all you are doing to work with your tenants to sustain tenancies this in these difficult times.
Decisions of National Cabinet
On 29 March 2020, the National Cabinet acknowledged the need for short-term intervention in residential tenancies to avoid significant disruption to the residential tenancy markets arising from COVID-19.
A set of principles were developed and endorsed by Treasurers to underpin and govern intervention to aid residential tenancies. These measures include:
- short-term protections for residential tenants who are at risk of eviction if they have lost some or all their income due to COVID-19 and have fallen or may fall behind on their rent
- encouraging tenants and landlords to agree on rent relief or temporary amendments to the lease through their own negotiations, including the reduction or deferral of rental payments for a defined period
- maintaining the ability for tenants in financial distress to terminate leases and/or seek mediation or conciliation
- acknowledging the need for cost-sharing or deferral of losses between landlords and tenants, with the Australian and state and territory governments to consider mechanisms to aid and advocating for participation by financial institutions
- investigating additional financial assistance to support tenants and property owners sustain tenancies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was also acknowledged that landlords and tenants not significantly affected by COVID-19 are expected to honour their existing obligations and rental agreements.
A freeze on evictions for people in financial distress due to COVID-19
The Queensland Government is now moving to legislate the eviction moratorium as a failsafe measure that helps people sustain tenancies and for people to remain in their homes at this challenging time.
Please refer to the Ministerial Media Statement at http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2020/4/9/special-covid19-protections-for-residential-tenants-and-owners.
Government has launched an online rental hub at www.covid19.qld.gov.au/the-hub
to provide information and resources to support discussions between property
owners and renters.
Managing hardship in Public Housing
In line with the National Cabinet principles, and to support public housing household stability and ensure resources are applied to the most important frontline services, the following actions have been endorsed:
- Rent arrears actions with households will be paused and individual circumstances will be managed on a case by case basis.
- Debt management activity, including for damage and maintenance debts, will be managed on a case by case basis.
- Changes in household circumstances or changes in income that lead to rent reductions will continue to be processed, but not where a rent increase would result.
Public Housing tenants who find themselves experiencing health or financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, either as a result of lost employment or reduced hours, are encouraged to call their local Housing Service Centre to discuss their specific circumstances.
Action for Community Housing Providers
Your strong relationships with the households you service mean that you will be best placed to implement hardship responses, that exceed the legislated requirements, in a way that recognises the unique circumstances of each household and which accords with your organisation’s mission within the social housing system.
For more information
About funding, policies and procedures
- Funded service providers should direct any questions in relation to policies, procedures and the allocation and expenditure of funds to their usual Contract Manager in the department.
- If your organisation identifies any anticipated issues or risks in ensuring continuity of service, please notify the department immediately.
About assistance to your clients
- Should you have any people presenting who require assistance, please contact the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349 or online at www.qld.gov.au/community/disasters-emergencies/queensland-disasters/novel-coronavirus-covid-19.
- If you become aware of a staff member or client with a confirmed case of COVID-19, please follow Queensland Health advice available at health.qld.gov.au/coronavirus or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).
- Please remember to check the Queensland Health website frequently for accurate information about the COVID 19 virus in Queensland and what you can do to prevent transmission and minimise service impacts. We encourage your organisations to regularly disseminate this information to your staff and clients.
About Australian Government directions
Check the Australian Government’s website – https://www.australia.gov.au/ – for the latest COVID-19 news, updates and advice from Australian Government agencies.
Thank you again for your ongoing support and efforts as we work together to respond to COVID-19 in Queensland.