Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thank Kevin's Angels for the bonus

Despite the rational argument that the money would have been better spent on more housing, DH is deeply grateful for the $1400 that her daughter received as a Disability Pensioner.
It means that the two of us can afford to have a holiday for the first time in years. We plan to hire a car, and head down to the South Coast.
Can't wait to do our patriotic duty to bail out the nation's tourism industry!  So before we tootle off,
We wish you all a d&m 2009, dear readers!  
PS. Can't resist one final carp, before we hit the road.

Unfortunately, with the cost of car hire, petrol, and accommodation, their won't be enough left over to indulge any secret inclination DH's daughter may have for booze or gambling, so Tony Abbott should not worry too much. Do he and his cronies have any idea how people actually live??

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Erratum: Councillor not Mayor

Due to a lapse in concentration DH mistakenly described a councillor allegedly stacking a public housing tenants association as a Mayor. Apologies for misleading impressions.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rudd Bonus reignites Class Struggle: Grumpy Old Policy Wonks vs Grinning Housos Clutching New Plasma TVs

Yes! DH has one at last, thanks to the Rudd bonus. Actually, she bought it out of her tax refund earlier this year. But only because she was worried she might not get another job by Christmas. So she figured if the worst happened, the bonus would still allow her to participate in the Nation's most sacred religious rite, the annual re-enactment of the "Resurrection of the Retailers".

(For more innocent days, refer to Quick, hide the plasma TV! Vinnies pays a visit).

All this is by way of thumbing her nose at the Scrooges who begrudge the masses their little bit of Xmas Cheer. It makes you long for the good old days of feudalism really, doesn't it? Back in ye Goode Olde Dark Ages, you only had to vouchsafe your liege 10% of your turnip harvest as rent, you hardly worked except at sowing and reaping time, and at the end of the year, you got invited to the manor to be treated to the latest in communications technology (OK, so it was wandering minstrels wassailing on the back of a tumbril.)

Now we're hearing from the fiscally-responsible classes, if they can tear themselves away from Grumpy Old Policy Wonks on the super dooper widescreens that they've had since they first hit the market, now we're hearing that housos shouldn't have got their $1000 quid, because they'll only spend it on Asian Electronics Multinationals. That's if they're the politically correct left wing middle-classes. Otherwise, they reckon we're all gonna spend it on booze and gambling. Talk about projection at its most obvious! Not screen projection, dummkopfs! Psychological projection, as in Jung and Freud, as in projecting your own secret desires, onto the Other, who can then be disposed of without too much grief.

NO! That bonus should have been spent on worthier recipients! It shoudda been spent on foreign-owned management consultancies like Price Waterhouse, to generate highly responsible feasibility studies, evaluations, reports, assessments, strategic plans, and generally hide the paper trail of blame, should things go pear-shaped.

And another thing, (not to carp on and on about it), but how many times must DH remind you all, (Wake up and smell the bad breath. Something rotten in the state of Howard's Australia) that the budget surplus was extracted from our teeth in the first place.

The ABC's News, in one of its most shameful episodes, trumpeted Tony Abbott's "concern" that beneficiaries would spend it all on booze and gambling. DH was not aware that people with disabilities and pensioners were such a rambustious bunch! Somebody should tweak Abbott's nose for him, and send him into orbit.

Alas, they're all wrong. That 1000 quid is more likely to go on new dentures.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Councillor stacking tenants action group?

[Apologies. DH accidentally wrote "Mayor", when she meant only "Councillor".]

DH hears that a prominent Westie Labor councillor has managed to fill up a local public housing tenants action group with his adoring proteges, and taken over the executive, while the people who reckon they actually did the work have given up in disgust. Reportedly, neither their auspicing agency, not DoH are interested. How did Councillor X do it, and whyever? Based on Anthrop 101, DH can only guess that Arab politics runs on a patronage system, stoked by handing out favours to the faithful and loyal, as opposed to an elected meritocracy. Not that an elected meritocracy inevitably delivers merit that often either, but at least there is something inherently more progressive in the idea than voting for the most powerful sheik in the area. If you believe in progress, that is. And if you don't believe in divine intervention, you gotta believe in progress after all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

2008 | The Housing Year that was | For policy wonks and acronym aficionados

[And if you're not into policy, bureaucratese, and acronyms, go straight to 2008 The Housing Year that was Down Among the Housos. This excursion into tedium is just to disprove those who claim DH is "all sparkling wit and style, and no substance"].

2008 was the year the new Labor Government began to fulfil its election promise to redress the Howard Liberal government’s shameful neglect of housing over its 11 years in office. Howard and Co left housing to “Market Forces”. We all know about that now, don’t we? During its tenure, the Liberals ripped $3 billion out of social housing and transferred it, via the Commonwealth Rental Assistance Scheme, to the pockets of private landlords. Despite fundamental agreement between a raft of government, industry, and NGO housing experts at the 2008 National Housing Conference that negative gearing is the greatest cause of housing inequity, no government has so far been game to touch the national sacred cowshed.


Tanya Plibersek, universally admired for her commitment to social justice, compassion, intelligence and seeming tireless energy, appointed minister for the new portfolio of Housing.

Oct 14 The federal government announced an increase in First Home Owner Grants to $14,000 for established dwellings and $21,000 for newly-built dwellings

Nov 24 The National Rental Affordability Scheme Act 2008 (NRAS) pass. This scheme aims to increase the supply of affordable rental dwellings by up to 50,000 by 2012. Under the Scheme successful applicants will be eligible to receive a National Rental Incentive for each approved dwelling, on the condition that they are rented to eligible low and moderate income households at 20 per cent below market rates. Second round applications close 27 March 2009

Nov 29 The National Affordable Housing Agreement, (NAHA) replaces the former Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG), aka the States, agreed to the … er.. $10 billion agreement, which means they will get $800 million over five years to reform and improve responses to homelessness $1.94 billion over 10 years ($834.6 million over five years) to improve the quality of Indigenous housing and tackle overcrowding in remote communities; and $400 million over two years for social housing as a down payment on longer term reforms.

Dec 21 PM Kevin Rudd and Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek release the White Paper on Homelessness. The government will spend $6.1 billion over 5 years with the aim of halving homelessness (current 105,000 people sleeping out on any given night) by 2020. Amazingly, the NGO's appear to love it.

Lots happening in Housing NSW, which is bristling with new policies and strategies. Following on from 3 rightwing Housing Ministers whose main public pronouncements took the form of tenant bashing, we now have in David Borger, a Minister who actually has an interest in housing, urban design and renewal. Perhaps we can start taking our BMW's out of our closets..

Housing NSW is looking at a raft of you-beaut strategies around things like Common Access (so applicants don't have to traipse around telling their story to a multitude of agencies), a Disability Action Plan, new hi tech service delivery options, improving Aboriginal Service Delivery, a strategy for supporting young people in public housing. The only question is, how long will it all take???

Apr 15 The Housing Amendment (Tenant Fraud) bill passed, making Housing NSW the only government agency in Australia with criminal prosecution powers.

Sep 8 David Borger, former Mayor of Parramatta, replaces Matt Brown as Housing Minister

Sep 10 Ex- Housing Minister Matt Brown resigns in disgrace after only 3 days in his job as Police Minister

Nov 11 The NSW Mini Budget cuts $80 million from Department of Housing over 4 years, which is to be achieved by “improved operational efficiency”. The government chooses to focus on retaining its AAA rating, and breaks its promise on ongoing contributions to Housing NSW working capital requirements. The NSW Council of Social Security NCOSS response to the Mini Budget says:
The Treasurer in introducing the Mini Budget called it “tough, decisive and
detailed”. He did not call it fair. … there is nothing in the Mini Budget
for low income and disadvantaged households.
Dec 4 the NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social issues announced an inquiry into homelessness and low-cost rental accommodation.

Dec 5 Housing NSW Annual Report released

Dec 11 Housing NSW releases its new strategy on Environmental Sustainability

2008 | The Housing Year that was | Down Among the Housos

It's the same the 'ole world over,
It's the poor wot get the blame
It's the rich wot get the bail-outs...
Ain't it all a bleedin' shame

"Reshaping Public Housing" has started to bite, particularly in the area of ...

Mental health

As public housing becomes increasingly limited to "those most in need" DH has noticed increasing anxiety among tenants about threatening behaviour from people with behavioural and delusional disorders. This perception is borne out by the 2007-8 Central Sydney North Regional Tenant Resource Service Report which states that for the second year in a row, concerns about mental health/ anti-social behaviour/ rebuilding community cohesion have edged out the perennial tenant favourite gripe, Maintenance, inadequacy of. When you consider that tenants all over are reporting that all but emergency maintenance has been on hold for at least 18 months, while we await the new you beaut Planned Maintenance regime (see below), you can surmise how worried tenants must be.

One of the pillars of "Reshaping" was meant to be the "Accord", a formal agreement between various agencies to support tenants with high support needs to maintain their tenancies. Three years later, there have only been a number of pilot projects, and they are still "under evaluation".

Waiting for Maintenance

Housing NSW's maintenance costs are about $1 million dollars a day, based on the previous year's maintenance bill of the order of $350 million. HNSW is attempting to make long term savings by introducing a new regime of planned maintenance. The idea is that contractors armed with Blackberries descend on all of us, survey what needs fixing, beam it all up to a central database, and then it all gets done in one broad swathe. We await the next exciting episode.

Meanwhile, a typical case study...

18 months ago, a tenant reports a cracked and jammed window that won't open. HNSW response: Nail the window down until approval is given for replacement. Many calls later, approval given. Approval now had for months, but nothing done. Now approval reneged, while awaiting the New Maintenance Sweep.
Tenant Fraud ruckus

Under that fine upstanding young minister, Matt Brown, Housing NSW became the first non-police department in Australia to give itself powers of criminal prosecution over tenants who falsely reported their earnings. The amendment to the Housing act that did this was rushed through parliament, before people like Clover Moore and Sylvia Hale had a chance to gather their wits. The Minister guesstimated that the savings would be about $50 million. Tenants were encouraged to dob in their neighbours, which would seem to militate against the millions spent by Housing NSW on Community development and building strong cohesive communities. There were about 4400 reports of which about 1/4 were self-reports according to "Your Home". Does this mean that 3/4 were reports by neighbours? It will be interesting to see the actual savings compared to the cost of eternal vigilance

The Lowdown on TP

Tenant Participation

Housing NSW is working on a new framework to consolidate the patchwork of existing organisations and confused definitions of what TP is all about. The first stage of this process has seen new rules for the ongoing funding of Regional Tenants Resource Services and Public Tenant Councils. HNSW has appointed a new body, the Statewide Social Housing Tenants Advisory Committee (SHTAC), to replace a previous PH Customer Council whose size and general level of internal conflict was considered to be unworkable. While a consultative committee such as the SHTAC has a useful role to play as a channel of communication between tenants and the department, tenant activists are rightly worried at any prospect that it will replace a robust system of tenant representation. In the meantime, HNSW needs to release more information about the actual achievements of this body. Further consultations between HNSW and tenants and other stakeholders are planned for early next year as further elements of the new TP structures are rolled out.

While consultative committees have their place, HNSW should look at schemes introduced by "New" Labor in Britain in which tenants are increasingly members of the boards of management of their estates. An article by Tony Gilmour, a Sydney Uni researcher published in the latest Shelter NSW newsletter, stated that in Manchester, for example, tenants hold fully 1/3 of the directorships of organisations managing over 75,000 units of housing stock.

And in 2009, UK Tenants are looking forward to the formation of the National Tenants Voice, an independent non-profit tenant lobbying group to help shape government policy, with funding of $5 million annually.

What a great idea, but are NSW tenants up to it?

It depends on which should rightly come first, the chicken or the egg:

It depends on whether you believe:

  • that if you give tenants a meaningful role that really leads to change, they'll rise to the occasion, or
  • that you can't trust tenants to manage themselves until they get their collective act together, until the old warhorses stop sniping at each other, until there is a sizable number of tenants whose horizons extend beyond their own dripping taps, until tenants finally realise that there is no point expecting "the Department" to be its own opposition, and take steps to set up their own tenants union, which probably means until gen-x, y, and z pull their fingers out, come up with some new ideas and dispatch the old guard

Dear Helmsperson eagerly awaits the dictatorship of the tenantariat, and may it come speedily in her lifetime. Amen.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A few articles in the pipeline to complete the 2008 Desperate Houso Omnibus, due to be released before Christmas.

                • The Lowdown on TP
                  The state of tenant participation in public housing
                • Belated welcome to the New Minister
                  As Housing Ministers whizz by, DH thought she'd wait a bit before
                  expending energy on David Borger, in case he moves on
                • The Housing Year

                  • A handy timeline of the big events of '08
                    Stung by critiques that she is all style and no substance, DH will be filling you in with all the big events federally and in NSW

                  • Down among the Housos
                    While the policy boffins and acronym afficionados have been busy little beavers, what's actually changed for housos?

                Monday, December 15, 2008

                Vale "D'oH", or, bring back "the Department"

                DH cannot stay silent any longer in the face of increasing outrage at being robbed of her prey.

                She will never forgive the Department of Housing for rebadging itself as Housing NSW.

                It almost smacks of misleading advertising. Housing NSW is a government department, but the slick new corporate"branding" obscures this fundamental reality.

                For a start, a huge slice of the population is barely coping with the fact that the Housing Commission was renamed the NSW Dept of Housing way back in 1986. (Isn't Wikipedia wonderful!).

                It means that journos now have to clutter their prose with "... Housing NSW (HNSW), formerly known as the NSW Department of Housing ...".

                For housos, muttering about "the Department" somehow loses its satisfying Kafkaesque edge. Although the shiny corporate moniker "Housing NSW" could possibly qualify as Orwellian Newspeak.

                And for satirists "D'oH" was a gift whose passing is deeply mourned.

                Henceforth, DH is putting her foot down. She will not let go of her prey that easily! She shall continue to refer to the "entity formerly known as the Department" as "the Department".

                Sunday, December 14, 2008

                Hi y'all, Tempe Arizona folks!

                Just out of curiosity, what brings all you folks from Tempe Arizona to DH's domain? I know times are tough in the US, but if you are hoping to apply for asylum in Australia, I'm afraid we can't find it in our hearts to offer refugees any social security whatsoever. 
                So sorry you defaulted on your sub-prime mortgage, but it's no use looking for cheap housing here. We're full up.  The waiting list for public housing here in NSW is currently about 40,000 souls, having mysteriously declined from 70,000 last year. Since there was no new housing built over the past year 30,000 have simply vanished. Draw your own conclusions, but personally, DH wouldn't risk it. The Department of Housing is being very cagey about offering any plausible explanation, leaving us to the conclusion that alien body-snatchers have somehow got hold of the Department of Housing's waitlists.  It's a worry.

                Friday, December 12, 2008

                When Barry met Nathan at the Sackville

                [Belated entry from an old journalism assignment. There's a nice observation about Rees which DH hopes is worth saving for posterity. ]

                "Where else but in Australia", I overheard someone above the din in Balmain's Sackville Pub, "could you get your political leaders turning up to face the rabble without anyone bothering about security?". Had to agree, it's pretty cool that here in Oz, our pollies are this accessible. So there we were in hecklers' paradise as the new Premier of NSW, Nathan Rees, went head to head with the Leader of the Opposition, Barry O'Farrell. And where else but in Oz would the moderator feel sufficiently laid back to refer to the august Leader of the Opposition as "Fatty O'Barrell"? The Coen Brothers couldn't have done better. All that was lacking was some tub-thumping from the Soggy Bottom Boys, Arbib, Bitar, Costa and Iemma, but they'd either been run out of town or kicked upstairs.

                This is going to be short on content because you know you could fill in the details in your sleep, so why should I bore you? Be assured that Rees and O'Farrell traded all the requisite economic rhubarb: responsible economic management, accountability, the possession of sound policy in contrast to the other side's lack thereof, and they even shook hands on political donations.

                Young Labor and Young Liberals were out in force. The former keeping up a steady catcall: "Where's yer plan, Barry? Show us yer plan! ". A bit dispiriting for those of us in Ageing Labor. Where did we go wrong??? How come our kids are dreaming of Master Planning rather than Barricade Manning (and Womanning of crse). How quickly are the lessons of history forgotten!Why, it seems these young people have never even heard a Socialist 5-year plan joke! See one below: If you believe in Planning... Reassuringly, the Young Libs were still true to tradition, hooting and hollering at nothing in particular, and clueless as ever.

                The "Friends of Callan Park" contingent turned up as usual and were promptly ruled out of order by the moderator, Louise Milligan, but not before Rees promised there'd be no selloff of Callan Park to commercial interests. This couldn't have been a huge impost as the Callan Park act precludes it, and Sydney University, who look set to take over, is not a commercial interest.
                But what was interesting was trying to divine Nathan Rees' character. Now that we're beyond ideology, character's got to mean a lot. You want someone batting for you who's intelligent, tough, flexible, responsive, can roll with the punches, reliable, up with the detail, and a sense of humor is essential. The times need gravitas: this is no time for clowns or comedians, but the glimmer of dry humor has to be there, proof of quick thinking and guarantee against megalomania. I know we're supposed to be cynical, but I thought Rees fit the bill.

                There was one moment that stood out from the predictable argy-bargy. Barry O'Farrell, carried away by the bonhomie of the evening, suggested why not have a series of half-a-dozen of these town-hallers across the state in the lead up to the next election. Instinctively I felt that this is not something Rees would want in a pink fit. But how was he gonna get out of it? I held my breath. How would I have got out of it? Me, a people pleaser, I would have caved, wouldn't want to be seen as lacking in bonhomie. Then I would have gone home and kicked myself and got my staffers to dream up excuses later. But Rees' response was, I thought, forthright and strong, and drew a line in the sand: "No thanks. Barry can run his campaign his way, I'll run mine my way".
                Good one!

                And another plus for Rees to which one cannot be entirely insensible: he looks like a footballer and has a literature degree: Yess! A sensitive Alpha male at last! What more could a woman (in her capacity as voter of course) want?

                But the shock ending was a sign of the times, another sign that the old Balmain was gone. O'Farrell won on the vote. Maybe not on the numbers, but certainly on the volume. The Young Libs are scenting victory and baying loudly for it, while Labor's barrackers lack all conviction.

                Maybe the vision of the Glorious Master Planned Dawn just doesn't quite galvanise the masses.

                If you believe in Planning...

                [For those who put their faith in Master Plans and Strategic Plans as the solution to all our ills ... Take a lesson from history...]

                Setting: A factory meeting in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

                A lecturer from the district Party committee is telling the workers about their bright future in the USSR.

                "See, comrades, after this five-year plan is completed, every family will have a separate apartment. After the next five-year plan is completed, every worker will have a car! And after one more five-year plan is completed, every family will own an airplane!"

                From the audience, somebody asks, "What the hell one may need an airplane for?"

                "Don't you see comrades? Let's say, there are shortages in potatoes supplies in your city. No problem! You take your own plane, fly to Moscow and buy potatoes!"

                Wednesday, December 10, 2008

                Festive Season Wishes

                If all our Christmases, Chanukkahs, and Eid Ul Adhas could come at once...

                Let's someone pack off all the fundamentalists: Moslem, Christian and Jewish, (and throw in the wearers of silly hats, ~ high correlation with the former), to the Sinai desert, but not before they are stripped of anything invented since the age of miracles. Let them fight it out, and let God pick His favourites by depositing His Manna where He sees fit. We'll go back after 40 years and see who's left standing.

                Meanwhile, the rest of us will have got on with it. Ordinary Moslems, Christians, and Jews can get on with good works fortified by whatever fuzzy logic works for them, while we atheists combat our weltschmerz (pain at the pointless suffering of a limited existence) with renewed dedication to social justice. *

                And we will be free to start on the Marxists and the Free Marketeers, we'll send them off equipped with nothing but pure theory and the collected works of Milton Friedman, and let the dialectic sort 'em out. And that'll be the end of the creme de la patriarchy and all their benighted handmaidens. And think of all the housing that would be freed up, though we'll have to get rid of all those heavy imitation walnut bookcases housing the holy books.

                * No DH would never be so unPC as to forget all the non-Jerusalem based creeds. Just so long as they keep their heads down.