Introduction

Based on the contribution of Anne Yuille, as amended by Genevieve Bolton, Executive Director/Principal Solicitor of Canberra Community Law and current to January 2018

The history of public housing in the ACT is markedly different from that elsewhere in Australia in that public housing was a fundamental part of the development of the national capital. The construction of housing by government was essential to accommodate public servants, business people and community workers who were willing to make Canberra their home.

By the late 1950s 84% of Canberra houses had been built by the government. It was not until 1972 that the number of privately built dwellings in the ACT was greater than the number of government-built dwellings. It remained part of the vision for Canberra that its public housing would be spread fairly evenly throughout the city and its suburbs.

Living in public housing was the norm in the 1950s and 60s for workers and their families in all walks of life. Restricting eligibility for public housing to people on low incomes came much later in the ACT than in other jurisdictions. Now, in the ACT as in other jurisdictions, the majority of public housing tenants are in receipt of Centrelink benefits and the vast majority pay a rebated rent.

In recent years some public housing stock has been transferred to community housing providers to set up and manage tenancies based on similar eligibility criteria and the same principle of income-based rent. "Social Housing" is the umbrella term for both public and community housing.

Public housing in the ACT is provided and managed by Housing and Community Services ACT (colloquially known as Housing ACT), a branch of the Community Services Directorate which is responsible for a wide range of service delivery and policy functions in the ACT.

All tenancies in the ACT are governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the RTA). This Act applies to both public housing tenancies and private tenancies and includes a standard form of residential tenancy agreement containing prescribed terms.

Public housing tenancies are also governed by the Housing Assistance Public Rental Housing Assistance Program 2013 (the Program). This is a Disallowable Instrument made under the Housing Assistance Act 2007.

This discussion of public housing law is structured in the following sections:
  1. The application of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the RTA) and the Housing Assistance Public Rental Housing Assistance Program 2013 (No 1) (the Program)
    This section briefly outlines the application of the RTA, and focuses on the Program which determines the administrative processes governing Housing ACT tenancies and applications for housing.

  2. Applying for Housing
    This section examines the administrative processes governing applications to Housing ACT for housing and transfer, and the effect of debt from a previous tenancy.

  3. During the tenancy
    This section discusses the application of the Program during the tenancy to matters of rent and rent rebate, changes in the household, market rent increases, and transfer.

  4. The Appeals Process
    This section deals with internal and external review processes in relation to decisions made under the Program, including refusal of application, waiting list category, cancellation of application, refusal of rebate or review of rebate. It deals with applications to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) in respect of both administrative decisions and tenancy decisions of Housing ACT.

  5. Termination of tenancy
    This section examines the matters particular to Housing ACT tenancies in relation to termination of tenancy by the lessor, including security of tenure, reasons for termination, and appeals.

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