Rule change for temporary accommodation will help people in crisis

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) welcomes a pause on the ‘rental diary’ requirement for people using temporary accommodation in NSW. The change is in line with PIAC’s recommendation to successive NSW governments and will reduce stress and anxiety for many people in crisis.

The NSW Homelessness Minister, Rose Jackson, announced a 12-month pause (starting 1 July) to the requirement that people using temporary accommodation fill out a rental diary to show they have attempted to secure a private rental home. The rental diary process is time consuming, forcing people to attend multiple property inspections even when there is almost no chance they will be chosen as tenants, and humiliating, with the demand they document a list of rejections.

Temporary accommodation is a last resort for people with nowhere else to go. It is short-term accommodation provided by the Government in places like low-cost hotels and motels.

Tara Imrie, Senior Solicitor with PIAC’s Homeless Persons Legal Service, has seen firsthand how the rental diary causes anxiety and embarrassment for people already in challenging circumstances.

‘One of my clients, Henry, had been rough sleeping for ten years, had no income and no rental history. It was obvious he was never going to secure a home in the private rental market. Yet he was asked to attend inspections and apply for rental properties to continue getting temporary accommodation.

‘Henry had serious health issues and couldn’t walk very far, had no access to transport, and no money, so going to inspections was extremely difficult. He also had trouble completing the applications, which were often online-only, because he had no phone or computer.

‘The rental diary requirement was time consuming, unnecessary, and humiliating. Today’s announcement will make a huge difference for clients like Henry.’

PIAC’s Homeless Persons Legal Service (HPLS), and StreetCare, a group of advocates with lived experience of homelessness supported by PIAC, have been at the forefront of advocacy for the removal of the ‘rental diary’ requirement. Over the last few years, we have repeatedly raised the issue with the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), relevant Government Ministers, and members of the NSW Parliament, including at a parliamentary inquiry.

While today’s announcement is welcome, PIAC maintains this should be a permanent policy change and not a temporary reprieve.

There are almost no adequate, affordable homes in the private rental market for people on lower incomes. The rental market is particularly challenging for people who are older, living with disability or complex health conditions, or have a recent history of rough sleeping. The problems with housing in NSW are systemic, widespread and unlikely to be fixed within 12 months.

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