Tuesday, 22 April 2008

The BMWs that ate public housing

As usual, the Silly has a silly story in it today, this time about public housing.

From the title of the story, you can see that it is partly about public housing tenants driving fancy BMWs, which raises the question of why they are still sponging off public housing.

If you ask me, the whole area of "public housing" has become terribly confused. I don't think those at the higher echelons really have a clear policy as to who should get public housing, where and for how long.

I would have thought that it would be possible to divide tennants into two groups initially - those that should be transient public housing users, and those that will be permanent.

The "transient" group should only be offered housing for a relatively short time. These are people who are going through some sort of crisis - divorce, loss of job, accident etc - and they need somewhere cheap for up to a few years. Even mums with kids should not need public housing forever. Let's say you get divorced and you have two kids aged 2 and 4. In three years time, both will be at school, so it should be possible for mum to get a job, get some cash together and move onto privately rented housing. People in that position should not need public housing for say 20 years, and the expectation needs to be set that once the kids are at school, you bugger off.

And if you decide to have another kid in the meantime as a way to stay in cheap housing - too bad. Get the father to support you, because you are not sticking around.

Some tough love is required.

The permanent bunch are a different group altogether. The circumstances of aged pensioners for instance are unlikely to change (except through death or disability). There's no sense in expecting them to get a job and be able to afford a privately rented place, so they should get a lease until death or dementia.

The mixed bag in the middle are the mental cases. They are the people that probably would have been institutionalised 30 years ago, but they are now supposed to live in the "community" - except that no one wants to live next to them. Who wants a raving nutter for a neighbour? I don't. I want peace and quiet - respectable, law abiding sane people are the people I want to agglomerate with. I don't see how closing the mental institutions has saved the state any money - instead of sticking all the loonies in a boarding school type environment where they can be cheaply fed, washed, monitored and drugged, we've put them into expensive individual units scattered all over the countryside that require an army of social workers to ensure that they feed themselves, medicate themselves and remember to wipe their bottoms once in a while. The result has been a lot of badly fed, un-medicated smelly people running around the place.

And we've also ended up with a huge queue of people looking for public housing. Apparently 70,000 are on the list in NSW alone.

Why are there so many people waiting? Is it because fewer public housing units are being built, or is because the "temporary" type of tennants are never being moved on? Once someone gets a bit of public housing, do they now expect to stay there for life? If that's the case, they should be moved into an institution of some sort.

There really are times when I want to turn the clock back to about 1958, simply because public policy seems to have been driven more by the head back then than the heart. Yes, it's nice and warm and fluffy to have loonies living in the community, but I'm not sure that the loonies are really benefiting from all this. If you were a bit mad, what would you prefer? An environment where you got three hots and a cot per day, had pills handed to you on a regular basis and got to sleep in a clean bed each night. A place that was heated in winter and cooled in summer. A place where you could talk to other people, because they are mad as well, and don't mind talking to other lunatics.

Or would they prefer to live next to me - someone that doesn't give a fuck about them - in a place where they have to remember to shop for food, work out how to cook it, clean up after themselves, remember to pay the power and gas bills and all that stuff. Option 1 treats them like children, whilst option 2 treats them like adults - but are they really capable of being adults?

Social workers and community activists really should be shot, since they're the ones that got us into this mess.

No comments: