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ACT housing crisis puts family of eight at risk of homelessness

Michael Weaver16 April 2021
Canberra mother Belinda Nunn with her five girls

Canberra mother Belinda Nunn with her five girls. Photo: Supplied.

There are 2789 Canberrans on the ACT waiting list for public housing and former Barnardo’s mother of the year and mum of seven Belinda Nunn, who will be homeless in four weeks, is one of them.

Ms Nunn has five daughters between six and 18, but has also helped raise her two nephews to her twin sister who died when the boys were young.

She came to Region Media to raise the issue of the housing crisis facing many Canberrans after she was told by Housing ACT there were simply no homes available.

“We need at least a four-bedroom home and I was told I was being put on a priority list, but I also heard there were 19 others on that list too,” Ms Nunn said.

“I’ve written plenty of letters to ministers to highlight the situation, but part of my question to Housing ACT has been how have they let it get to this situation where people are starting to become homeless, and families have to start separating in order to put a roof over their head?

“I also know of at least four or five other people who are single that are living in four or five-bedroom houses because their children have grown up or moved out.”

Yvette Berry

Housing Minister Yvette Berry at the Morphett Street public housing project in Dickson early this month with Housing ACT Executive Branch Manager Catherine Loft (right) and Managing Director of ABA Construction Mohammed Wazir. Photo: Supplied.

There is a long wait for public housing in the ACT with more than 1600 with high needs, nearly 1000 needing standard homes and around 182 assessed as a priority. According to the Community Services Directorate website, the average waiting times are 1340 days for standard housing, 867 for high needs and 267 for priority.

In response to questions from Region Media, Housing Minister Yvette Berry said there will be approximately 250 new four to six-bedroom dwellings constructed as part of the ACT Government’s 10-year ACT Housing Strategy, released in 2018.

“The demand expressed for four to six-bedroom properties on the housing and transfer registers is around 8 per cent of total demand,” Ms Berry said. “One and two-bedroom properties represent approximately 80 per cent of total demand for social housing, which is the reason for a large portion of new properties having two bedrooms.”

This will come as little relief for Ms Nunn who has been given four weeks’ notice in the private rental she currently occupies after the lease expired and has not been renewed.

“I said to all these ministers that I’m not asking for a handout, I’m asking for a hand up. Just help me get up and then I can keep moving,” she says of her situation which is having a significant mental impact on her and her family.

“I’ve never had to ask for government help until my marriage broke down two years ago,” she said.

In 2014, Belinda was named Barnardo’s ACT mother of the year for her dedication to her children and those of her twin sister. She also coaches her daughters’ netball teams and regularly helps at their schools.

Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services Rebecca Vassarotti said they had received correspondence from Ms Nunn and were in the process of responding.

“While we cannot comment on individual cases, we understand the complex challenges and difficulties that Canberrans looking for a home face,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“I want to reassure our community that there is a range of supports to help people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. The Supportive Tenancy Service is there to assist Canberrans with advice and support to help maintain their current tenancies. OneLink also refers Canberrans to other supports such as emergency food assistance and emergency accommodation.”

Ms Vassarotti said in the last financial year, 99 per cent of all new allocations to public housing and 96 per cent of transfers within public housing were made to people in greatest need.

“These results reflect our continued focus on housing those with priority and high needs to ensure social housing is allocated to those most at-risk of homelessness,” she said.

Ms Nunn said staff at Housing ACT have been very sympathetic to her situation that involves many moving parts.

The Supportive Tenancy Service can be contacted through OneLink on 1800 176 468. It’s open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Original Article published by Michael Weaver on The RiotACT.

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