This is what a public tenant family looks like.
While politicians, bureaucrats and other organizations have been busy, behind closed doors, discussing and making decisions regarding the future of public housing and what is best for the ‘disadvantaged’
( which coincidentally benefits the advantaged.. Funny that !? ) the public tenants themselves have been locked out of any genuine consultation, and effectively blocked from being able to find out what is going on…
Coupled with little or no media coverage discussing the privatisation of our ( collectively owned ) public housing - public housing communities are still largely uninformed of proposed changes to the present public housing system.
This is classism - that some groups are privy to important information while others ( including those who will be the most affected by these changes ) have the information withheld.
Knowledge is indeed power.
Are any politicians - Liberal, Labor or Greens - meeting with their constituents in public housing to openly discuss how proposed plans to transfer Public Housing management and titles to 'community housing' businesses will affect them and their families- including the rights and protections they stand to lose?
Have there been any discussions that address the agenda of gentrification which is part and parcel of public housing 'redevelopments'? No !?
At the same time these political parties claim to care about refugees, indigenous Australians, people with disabilities, people who have experienced domestic violence, sole parents, migrants etc.It must be an uncomfortable and inconvenient truth to them that all these groups are strongly represented in public housing!
Neither is there is a campaign of resistance by the Tenants Union or the peak body for public tenants - the Victorian Public Tenants Association( VPTA ) - when it comes to the privatisation of public housing.
If the ALP hands over the titles of public housing, how long do you think it will be before public tenants are financially squeezed out of our inner-city homes- which are situated on prime real estate- and can command exorbitant rents? Or will we be forcibly displaced? So much for 'affordable housing' - which are weasel words anyway to those of us who have been following the situation in Britain. In the UK the term affordable housing has become a sick joke.
I once asked the following question of a proponent of Community Housing in a mutually respectful discussion. 'How can you justify keeping thousands of people uninformed of what is going on, and uninformed of their rights?'
Her response was that 'it is better not to cause them unnecessary anxiety beforehand'. Really !? No-one has the right to play God with other people's lives and their future in this way. This is paternalistic and classist. It also sounds like a rationalisation. If the tenants are kept powerless and uninformed - they won't be ready or able to organise against these proposed changes.
Classism is as obnoxious and unacceptable as racism. In fact classism and racism are often intrinsically linked, as the following examples illustrate.
Many indigenous public tenants have been evicted in Queensland and Western Australia under the controversial 3 Strikes Eviction Policy. It has been described as a racist policy.
This is true- since its impact on indigenous tenants has been disproportionate. But it is primarily an attack on class because it is a policy aimed at public tenants- over and above the usual requirements of the Residential Tenancy Act.
The 'redevelopments' at Prahran include plans to demolish the 'walk-up' component of the mixed low and high rise public housing estate.The estate will 'lose three and four bedroom units to be replaced by housing for singles'
How is this going to impact on the present public housing community in Prahran? The community will be decimated by this 'redevelopment'. What about large families that require additional bedrooms?
I predict that our lovely public tenant families from the Horn of Africa with be disproportionally affected by this redevelopment and will be displaced.
What a sad loss of diversity for both our public housing communities and for the broader society.
Is anybody at all discussing this with the community in Prahran ? - Labor, Liberals, Greens?
Are the public tenants being told the truth? Or are they being deliberately kept uninformed because, after all, public tenants are powerless, and property-developers have loads of political influence and power.
Friends of Public Housing has visited the Prahran estate, and it appears that the public tenants there have no real idea of what is happening or the ramifications.
One more example of class and racism. We heard the following anecdote regarding a young African man who wanted to apply for public housing. He was told that since he was young, fit and healthy he should be applying for private rental housing. The message he was given was that public housing is - well - for losers. This young man wanted to live in public housing to be a part of his Ethiopian community! Maybe this employee would like to go onto a major inner-city public housing estate and call our wonderful Ethiopian public tenants 'losers' ??!!
There are some good sites in the US that address class. I cannot find anything comparable here in Australia. Please let me know if you know of any.
Public housing communities have a great deal to offer society. When it comes to 'social capital' we are indeed wealthy - because public housing is all about community. On the other hand, the doctrine of neoliberalism that is driving these privatisations and dividing our society into haves and have-nots, has no real value system apart from the glorification of money and markets.