The Productivity Commission has recommended a dramatic overhaul of the public housing sector, including a rise in rental assistance payments.
The commission released on Friday a wide-ranging report advocating reform to the state and federal human services sector, recommending changes to social housing, health and palliative care, and community services.
The commission has recommended that the system for public housing, where rents are set at a proportion of the tenant’s income, is replaced and that the federal government extend Commonwealth Rent Assistance to public housing tenants while increasing the payments by about 15 per cent to reflect increased rent.
Extending rental assistance payments to people in public housing would give low-income earners the same opportunities as their counterparts in private rentals, the report said.
Shelter Tas executive officer Pattie Chugg said state government data showed that take-up of private rental assistance had fallen because of the lack of affordable private rental housing.
“For people to be able to exercise real housing choices, there must be an adequate supply of affordable rental housing,” she said.
“We know there is shortage of supply – well over 14,000 households in Tasmanian are living in rental stress.
“The recent Rental Affordability Index showed many households on low incomes having to pay more than 50 per cent of their income on rents.”
But Ms Chugg said the current process on income-based rent for public housing protected people from housing stress and she feared changes to this system might create unintended consequences.
“We don’t have any information about the funding gap that the state government would be exposed to under the proposed changes,” she said.
Ms Chugg said disappointingly the report did not address the state’s public housing debt to the Commonwealth which saw the state return $16 million of $29 million in funding to the federal government.
The commission also recommended that state governments publish information on expected waiting times to access social housing by region as a guide to prospective tenants.
And it wants public housing sector to be further opened up to be managed by more external organisations.
A state government spokesman said the draft report was being considered by the government and a response would be provided to the commission.
The Productivity Commission will be accepting submissions to its draft report until July 14.
It will produce its final report in October.