WA Peaks Call to Freeze Evictions from Public Housing

Homelessness and youth homelessness costs the public significantly more than public housing, and substantially more than a few thousand dollars in rent. Despite this fact, hundreds of households including those with children are routinely evicted to homelessness every year from public housing by the Department of Communities. According to statistics from the Department of Communities, most public housing evictions are for rent arrears, and not anti-social behaviour as sometimes claimed by Department staff in the media.

In 2016, figures showed of the 495 evictions across Western Australia, 212 were due to rent arrears and water bills; 157 for poor property standards and only 71 for disruptive behaviour.

This points to an underlying crisis that the majority of people facing eviction into homelessness are also likely to be experiencing poverty, domestic violence, mental illness and/or families carrying the burden of inter-generational trauma. Losing a safe, stable place to then call home can often be the ‘last straw’.

Tenancy WA, in partnership with Shelter WA, WACOSS, WAAMH, YACWA, Women's Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services and CLCWA, is calling for an end to evictions from public housing into homelessness with an immediate moratorium on evictions into homelessness of children.

“Children evicted to homelessness miss out on schooling, their health needs aren’t met, they are at increased risk of assault and they don’t have a chance to have a safe and secure childhood. We worry that we are setting these kids on a fast track to ongoing poverty and disadvantage,” said Michelle Mackenzie CEO of Shelter WA. Data on evictions, in particular the eviction of children, is difficult to obtain. It’s imperative the Department of Communities monitors the number of children evicted to homelessness, as this is a serious child protection risk. The number, age and gender of children determines eligibility for housing, and how many bedrooms the family are provided to the Department. These details are on the public housing application and the annual rent review forms.

“The Department of Communities should absolutely know how many children are being evicted,” Tenancy WA principal solicitor Kate Davis said.

“We are calling for these figures to be collated and released, and then the Department should set a target of zero children evicted to homelessness.”

“We expect that upwards of 50% of these evictions are Aboriginal families, and so we’re concerned that hundreds of Aboriginal children are being evicted to homelessness every year in WA,” Ms Davis said.

Losing the security and safety of a stable home is a traumatic experiences for anyone, but it places even more distress on the most vulnerable and impressionable members of our community – children. The review of the Residential Tenancies Act provides the opportunity to remove the “no grounds terminations” which will ensure that Courts can always review a termination to make sure it is justified.

We call on the State Government to adopt a target of zero children in public housing are evicted to homelessness.

Recent media articles on the crisis of public housing evictions in WA:

Crikey- ‘Punitive public housing tenancies are pushing people into the streets'

The Australian- 'Call to freeze evictions of vulnerable families'

The Australian- 'Out of House and Hope'

Sydney Morning Herald- ‘Stories From My Desk: Perth Homelessness Worker’s Front-line Report’

The Australian- 'Indigenous Clean-up Program Preventing Evictions'