Elderly, chronically ill residents prepare to sleep in their cars as NRAS ends

The National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) saved Shirley Sagar from homelessness three years ago.

Now, as the federal government program comes to an end, she’s facing a nightmarish case of deja vu.

Last week, at least 17 residents of Nambour unit complex Petrie Villas were given a notice to leave by June.

Their properties will be removed from the NRAS, sending rents soaring.

Ms Sagar said there was no way she could survive in the current housing market.

It has worsened significantly in the past three years and, back then, she was preparing to live in her car before she found a place at Petrie Villas.

“It’s hard because you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re going to do,” Ms Sagar said.

“A lot of us have got medical problems. A lot of us are on aged care assistance.

“How do we survive if we go out on the streets?”

Thousands are facing the same fate across the country, with the majority of NRAS properties due to be removed from the scheme by the end of next year after reaching the maximum period of 10 years in the program.

NRAS was implemented by the federal government in 2008 as part of a commitment to improve housing affordability.

But in the 2014–2015 budget, the government announced there would be no further funding, forcing the program to end by 2026.

The state government said it would consider buying the scheme’s Queensland properties, at its housing summit next week.

Resident Mark Lovett said the Petrie Villas community could not believe there was no plan in place to protect vulnerable members of society.

“The government should have been on to this four or five years ago,” Mr Lovett said.

A lifetime of government let-downs

More than 36,000 properties have been part of the scheme since its inception, providing vulnerable residents with subsidised rent at least 20 per cent lower than the market rate.

Thousands of properties are being removed from the NRAS every year.(Supplied: Australian Government )

About 17,000 properties will remain in NRAS by the end of 2023 as more than 6,600 are removed from the scheme throughout the year, including 2,499 in Queensland.

Stolen Generation survivor Christine Anderson said she was growing accustomed to being “let down” by the government.

“We’ve just got to put up with what we got to put up with depending whatever government’s in,” she said.

“We’re all like family. It’s a little community here and the family’s going to be torn apart now because we’re all going to be going into different areas, and that’s if we find housing.

“We aren’t getting any support from anyone.”

Residents have been advised to join the 46,000 Queenslanders already on the wait list for social housing.

Multiple residents, including Ms Sagar, have been in the queue for three years.

“We’ve worked our lives. We’ve paid our taxes. We’ve supported this country and they just say, ‘Nope, can’t do anything for you, put your name on a housing commission list and wait’,” she said.

Calls for action

Queensland Council of Social Service chief executive Amy McVeigh urged the government to find a solution to deal with fallout from the end of the scheme.

“We have about double the population of Cairns currently experiencing housing insecurity in Queensland,” Ms McVeigh said.

“The last thing we need is a block knocked out of the structure that is keeping a roof over the head of some Queenslanders.

“If the scheme ends, it would be better to replace it with another scheme that would ensure that people who are currently on low incomes in NRAS houses are sustained in their tenancies as much as possible.”

Amy McVeigh says may people in NRAS properties have low incomes, are older or live with disability.(ABC Brisbane: Mark Leonardi)

The ABC contacted the federal Department of Social Services and Queensland’s Minister for Communities and Housing for comment. Neither responded.

The federal government has said 30,000 new social and affordable houses will be delivered nationally in the next four years under the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund.

That’s in addition to the Queensland government’s commitment to have 13,000 new homes completed or under construction by 2027.

But Ms McVeigh said more was needed to ensure every Queenslander had a home.

“The current level of investment won’t even maintain the status quo,” she said.

“We need about 11,000 new social and affordable houses per year for the next 20 years to continue to keep up with our growing population.

“Clearly government can’t deliver that scale of housing alone, it needs to make adjustments to its policy settings to enable the private and community sector to step up and help.”

NRAS and affordable housing provider Coast2Bay chief executive Andrew Elvin said people in NRAS properties on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast were particularly at risk.

“We have 3 per cent of all of the NRAS properties nationally here on the Sunshine Coast, but only 1 per cent of the population nationally,” Mr Elvin said.

He said the company would provide support to the Nambour residents renting its units under the NRAS.

Article source: Queensland Property Investor

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