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News from the Tenants' Union ACT
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Tenant News

News from the Tenants' Union ACT

Welcome to our first edition of the new Tenants' Union ACT Newsletter!  We will be sending this newsletter bi-montly to keep you updated on what's happening at the TU and the Tenants Advice Service.  We'll have service updates, website updates, news and events as well as handy tenancy tips and links to tenancy and housing related research.  If you have any items you would like listed in this newsletter please let us know!

Please feel free to forward this newsletter to colleagues or anyone else who might be interested to receive it. A sign up form for this newsletter is available here.

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We have moved!

Our new office is located at 21 Barry Drive, Turner

Look for the "Templar" Building on the corner of Barry Drive and Watson St.

Our postal address and phone numbers have stayed the same.

Advice line (open to take messages between 10am and 11:30am): 6247 2011. Service availability can be checked via our Twitter.

Admin line: 6247 1026 (for general enquires and warm/urgent referrals from community workers)

Email: info@tenantsact.org.au

We have plenty of space in the office including a big new meeting/training room which we hope to get plenty of use out of in the coming months! Keep an eye out for information about training sessions for renters and community workers. 
 

Launch of the CLC Hub

It was a very long time coming.  On Friday 21 March the new CLC Hub space was officially opened by ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell, and we have the plaque to prove it. ACT Minister for Housing Shane Rattenbury was also there to receive our thanks for his assistance and ongoing support. We were joined by about 80 colleagues and friends who were very happy to celebrate the move and check out the new digs.  

The back story:
In 1994 the TU and Welfare Rights moved in to space in Havelock House in Turner, being joined by Women's Legal Centre a few years later.  This was (and still is) great community space but as demand increased and our services expanded we started to find it a very tight fit.   The TU in particular found that we had to refuse offers of volunteer assistance and could not look for more staff because there was not a spot to put another body.

Over the years the shared space had proved so beneficial in terms of shared costs, other resources and client referrals that it was decided it was best for the services and our clients to stay together. In about 2007 we seriously started looking for more space and in 2010 put in our first bid to the ACT Government for more space for the Community Legal Centre Hub (CLC Hub).  The ACT Government was very supportive and a great deal of work was done to explore all possible options.  In the 2013 Budget the ACT Government announced funding for the CLC Hub.  It was then a flurry of activity to locate and secure suitable space, which turned out to be less than 500m from Havelock House.

And now:
The new digs are spacious, we all have windows, we even have meeting spaces and spare desks.  The TU is now able to plan for a volunteer program and hopefully even funding for a new paid Advice Worker. Watch this space for more updates as these things progress.

 

Staff update

Deb Pippen – Executive Officer
(5 days, 9am – 5pm)

Tich Pasipanodya – Principal Solicitor
(5 days, 9am – 5pm)

Adelaide Rief – Tenancy Advisor/Project Worker
(5 days, 9am – 5pm)

Sarah Hein – Tenancy Advisor
(4 days Mon - Thurs, 9am – 2pm)

Nicola Hearn – Office Coordinator
(5 days, Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri 9am – 1pm; Tues 1:30pm - 5:30pm)

What's on @ TUACT

Most of our energy has been taken up with moving to our new office space!  A few things that we’ve been doing include:
  • Moving to our new office space, setting up new systems and procedures so that we can share this space effectively with the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre and the Women's Legal Centre
  • Meeting with Members of the ACT Civil and Administrative to discuss how we can better support renters facing the Tribunal 
  • Collaborating with Legal Aid to develop more effective and efficient referrals and information provision for tenants (look out for regular tenancy information sessions soon!)
  • Working with the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Service in their Orientation program to deliver information about the Tenants Advice Service to newly arrived refugees and migrants. 
  • Attending the media launch of the Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot 2014 - see below under "Recent news and research" for more details.

Keep an eye out for...


Legal Aid and TUACT Joint information sessions
We are currently working on developing a programme of free weekly information sessions for tenants in the ACT wanting to find out more about bond claims and ending a tenancy. These are two of the most common issues that come through the Tenants Advice Service and the Legal Aid Helpdesk and we are keen to develop a more efficient and effective way of providing clear and useful information to tenants. Keep and eye on our Facebook and Twitter for more details. 

International Tenants’ Day 2014
The theme for this year is “Sharing a Bond”. Save the following dates in your diary.
This year the Exhibition will be held at the new prestigious Belconnen Arts Centre from Wednesday 24 September to Sunday 12 October. A public opening on the evening of 24 September will feature a local talent (TBC). The Awards Presentation night to announce winning entries will be held on 8 October with Minister for Housing, Shane Rattenbury, officiating.

Associated events:
  • The ITD Committee is pleased to announce that the successful art workshops program held last year for participants will be held through the Tuggeranong Arts Centre – Community Cultural Inclusion Officer
  • They are also investigating the possibility of a mobile exhibition at various venues to be announced
  • An ITD calendar featuring winning entries will be produced for purchase

Training available! 

If your organisation has clients who might benefit from a short information session on the Tenants Advice Service and tenancy rights, please get in touch as we are happy to deliver free tailored training to your clients at a preferred location. 
 
Also if you are a worker and would like to see a training session on tenancy rights in your workplace to help you assist your clients, please get in touch, we would be very happy to talk about how we can help out.

Upcoming in the sector...



Legal Aid Information Sessions
Legal Aid ACT are offering a series of free information sessions to the public on a range of topics including workplace rights, separation and divorce, post separation parenting and drink driving offences.  A timetable can be accessed here. RSVP is essential on 02 6243 3475 or by e-mail to  Community.Education@legalaidACT.org.au.  

ACT Shelter Forums in 2014
  • Monday 23 June – ACT Government Budget – Minister Shane Rattenbury – ACT SHELTER MEMBERS ONLY
  • Monday 21 July - Gethin Davison - Lecturer - Planning, City Futures Research Centre - Understanding and addressing community opposition to affordable housing development
  • Monday 13 October – International Tenants’ Week and Anti-Poverty Week – speakers / topic TBC
  • Monday 17 November – ACT Shelter AGM + Forum – speakers / topic TBC
All forums commence at 12.15pm for networking and lunch - then 12.30pm-2pm for presentations. For updates subscribe to the ACT Shelter E-newsletter here.
*Unless otherwise stated, the forums are open to the general public and ACT Government representatives

ACTCOSS Training calendar 
There are a number of seminars being run by the ACT Council of Social Services over the next few months including, Effective Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (presented by the Gulanga Program), Communication Skills (presented by Exhale Consulting). Fundamentals of Working Cross Culturally (presented by Companion House). Further information can be found here.

Reconciliation Planting Day
The ACT Government invites you to come along and celebrate National Reconciliation Week 2014 by planting local native plants and learn about the significance they have to local traditional custodians and the cultural landscape.
Where: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre, Yarramundi Reach
When: Friday 30 May 2014 from 9.00am – 4.30pm

What to Expect: 
  • Planting native species
  • Weaving demonstrations
  • Understanding Canberra’s cultural landscape
  • Free BBQ lunch
  • Understanding local bush tucker
  • Learning about Ngunnawal history and culture
For ACT Public Servants: Under Section F13.1 of the 2013-2017 ACT Public Service Enterprise Agreement, Community Service Leave is available for a recognised voluntary community service activity.

Red Cross ACT - Seeking Humanity: Asylum Seeker Stories
Join us to hear the inspiring stories of asylum seekers and refugees as part of Refugee Week 2014. The program will include speakers and music, followed by light refreshments.
 
National Library of Australia
Conference Room
Thursday 19 June 2014
2 - 4pm
 
Please RSVP to Kate MacLennan at kmaclennan@redcross.org.au by 9 June 2014.

Social Media

We have just started to use our social media more actively, with the aim of making information about the Tenants Advice Service and the availability of the service more accessible.  We hope this will make it easier for workers and renters to access the service and reduce frustration with wait times.  Please connect with us via your organisation or personal accounts to stay in touch!
 
Our Twitter features daily updates on service availability

Our Facebook features daily updates with information on events, tenancy rights, news and links to the website.

What's new on the web

We have found that our website is an incredibly useful resource for tenants, with thousands of hits on the site every day. We will be conducting a review of the website and the available resources over the next few months. Your suggestions for information and resources you would like to see on the website are heartily welcomed! 

Updates
Currently, there is an update on the state of the rental market in our Ending a Tenancy and Breaking a Lease factsheet – this will be relevant to tenants who have been asked to pay compensation of the difference between their rent and the rent that their property is being advertised at.

Sample Letters
Are you finding it hard to get started on that letter?  Or are you a community worker who needs a template to  help a client? We have a range of template letters available on our website about repairs, rent arrears and ending a lease.
 
 

Artwork from the Annual Tenants Union ACT International Tenants Day Art Competition

Maria Sankey - Winner of the 2013 Tenants Union ACT International Tenants Day Art Competition

Recent news and research

 

Review of the Residential Tenancies Act

We are expecting the release of a Discussion Paper for the upcoming review of the Residential Tenancies Act in the next month or so. When the paper has been released we will be contacting our stakeholders and beginning to conduct community consultation about possible amendments to the Act to better protect tenants in the private rental market.


ACT Shelter Research Projects

Older Women and Homelessness
ACT Shelter Inc is conducting research into the housing needs of women in the ACT in the later part of their lives.* They are inviting women who are single (with or without children), aged 45 and above, and who don’t think they will own their own home outright by the time they retire, to tell us your stories in a variety of ways. 

If you are interested in participating in this project or would like to know more information please contact the ACT Shelter Women’s Project Officer Dr Lisa Petheram on womensproject@actshelter.net.au or (02) 6247 3727.


Homelessness specialist service engagement with mainstream services
A Housing and Homelessness Policy and Research Consortium has now been formed in order to consolidate work across peak bodies in the ACT to achieve the optimum result in supporting ACT housing and homelessness policy through leveraging resources across the ACT community sector. Members of the consortium are ACT Shelter, ACT Council of Social Services, the Youth Coalition of the ACT, and the Womens’ Centre for Health Matters. As the lead member for the Consortium, ACT Shelter is managing the position funded through the Consortium.
 
The first project that the new Policy and Research Officer (Consortium) is undertaking is: The collaboration of mainstream services with the Specialist Homelessness Sector in preventing or responding more effectively to homelessness.
 
James from Shelter has already begun to make contact with relevant stakeholders in regard to this first project and will be a familiar face at relevant networking meetings over the next few months, such as Joint Pathways and Joint Community Government Reference Group. The project is due for completion by June. Please feel free to phone or email James if you have any questions or input into this project

Student housing and private rental
At the beginning of this year ACT Shelter submitted a briefing paper to the Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, in regard to a range of issues around student housing including its extremely high cost. Shelter is currently in conversation with the Chief Minister’s office in regard to these issues. The paper is available on the ACT Shelter website


LRAC Inquiry into the scope and operation of the Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT)


The Attorney-General, Simon Corbell MLA, has asked the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council (LRAC) to broadly inquire into the scope and operation of the Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT).

After a period of extensive research, LRAC has released a community consultation paper for public consultation.  The consultation paper outlines the current scope and operation of the Discrimination Act and discusses alternative approaches taken in Australia and overseas.  It considers the effect of possible changes and asks a number of questions about how the Act should continue to operate.
Important:  Before you make a submission, please read the Information Sheet , which provides background information about the inquiry, outlines the purpose of your submissions and explains how your submissions will be used.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 30 May 2014. More information can be found here.
 

Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot 2014


The Rental Affordability Snapshot is designed to highlight the lived experience of looking for housing while on a low income. It focuses on the Australian population who earn the least income – Commonwealth benefit recipients and minimum wage earners.
 
Each year in April, Anglicare Australia agencies across Australia search local newspapers and real estate websites for rental accommodation.
 
And each year the results clearly demonstrate the lack of affordable and appropriate housing for people on low incomes. The report includes a section specifically focusing on housing affordability in the ACT and is available here.
 

AHURI Evidence Reviews


The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute publishes regular "Evidence Reviews" which draw on the huge amount of research they do at the Institute, condensing it down into easy to digest short articles which often examine an aspect of housing or homelessness.  The most recent edition examines the commonly used 30/40 method of determining housing affordability. 


 

Tenancy Statistics

Around 30% of the private occupied dwellings in the ACT are occupied by people paying rent and approximately 30% of the ACT population are renters. That's around 100,000 people renting in the ACT. 

8% of households in the ACT are paying more than 30% of their income to rent, that's around 30,000 people. While some of these people will be making a choice to do this some, particularly those in the lower 2 income quintiles are very likely to be in housing stress. 

The median weekly rentals for the week ending 20 March are $503 for houses and $399 for units.

The vacancy rate is currently 2.1%. 

The top 3 issues that the Tenants Advice Service have advised tenants on are: 
  • breaking a lease (e.g. compensation claims for lost rent)
  • bond issues (e.g. disputes about damage and return of the bond)
  • repairs

Feedback

This is our first edition of our new newsletter and we would love to hear your thoughts on it.  Please use the form on our Contact page to let us know!
 
Please feel free to forward this newsletter your networks.

 

 
 
Copyright © 2014 Tenants' Union ACT, All rights reserved.


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