Housing debts rise to $1.6 million

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Public housing debt in the Great Southern has surged more than 15 per cent in the latest State Government figures.

Money owed by current and former Housing Authority tenants increased 15.2 per cent from $1.38 million in 2015-16 to $1.59 million last financial year.

Department of Communities assistant director-general housing Greg Cash said despite the rise in debt the department was becoming more proactive in recouping money owed.

“The level of housing tenant debt reflects the actions of a very small percentage of tenants who access social housing but cause damage or are delinquent in rent or utilities payments,” he said.

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“Department of Communities is taking a more active approach in identifying at-risk tenancies and working with those tenants to ensure property standards are maintained, and rent and utilities payments are up to date.

“Where tenants have vacated their tenancies, the department is actively pursuing them, directly or via a debt collection agency, to establish affordable repayment arrangements and recover the outstanding debts.”

Vacated debt, money owed by former tenants, rose from $1.14 million to nearly $1.4 million, while debt accrued by current tenants decreased from $234,000 to $200,000.

Mr Cash said regional public housing debt was typically higher than metropolitan areas.

“Historically, damage costs are higher in non-metropolitan areas,” he said.

“This is often due to extensive damage by fire or, in some cases, cyclone damage or abandonment.

“Repair costs are often higher in non-metropolitan areas due to the distances involved and higher costs of trades and materials required.

“Debt incurred by landlords as a result of tenant damage is not exclusive to State Government-owned dwellings; it is also a major issue for the private property management industry.”

Overall public housing debt in WA has increased 33 per cent in the past two years and now totals more than $55 million.

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