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SA public housing rent capped for Centrelink recipients

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The State Government says social housing tenants whose Centrelink payments have been doubled in the wake of COVID-19’s economic fallout won’t be forced to pay extra rent.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week announced that people who receive JobSeeker payments, previously called Newstart, will receive double their fortnightly pay in a bid to soften the blow that coronavirus is having on the economy.

The COVID-19 stimulus support payments are worth $1115.70 per fortnight – up from the previous JobSeeker payment of $550 a fortnight.

In South Australia, most social housing tenants pay 25 per cent of their income – or market rent, whichever is the lesser – towards their rent.

SA Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink told InDaily this morning that SA Housing or community housing tenants who receive COVID-19 stimulus support payments will not have to pay increased rent in line with their additional income.

She said the decision was made to ensure SA public housing tenants “will receive the full benefit of the Federal Government’s stimulus increases”. 

“We recognise South Australians are hurting right now and we know that every little bit helps,” she said.

“This income boost for our social housing tenants on income support allowances means these South Australians will have more money in their pockets for cost of living expenses and to support the economy.

“We know that this is an extremely stressful and uncertain time for people and that is why the State Government is working closely with the Commonwealth on rental relief solutions in response to COVID-19.”

South Australian Council of Social Service CEO Ross Womersley described the move as “really sensible” as the impacts of the coronavirus force increasing numbers of people to seek out government financial assistance.

“This is the kind of leadership we need our governments to illustrate for the people who are in the private sector as well,” he said.

“People in these circumstances who have got private landlords, those landlords ought to also be not adjusting in any way their rents.”

SACOSS has joined housing groups such as Shelter SA to call for a moratorium on rent increases and for landlords to be prevented from evicting tenants as the state copes with the COVID-19 fallout.

The National Cabinet is expected to sign-off on relief for commercial and residential renters today, with banks, lenders and landlords to be asked to waive all overheads including rents and mortgage repayments for at least the next six months.

The State Government also announced this morning that it would immediately provide $10 million to the SA Housing Authority to upgrade 1000 homes, including 250 in regional South Australia, as part of a broader plan to boost the economy.

The work will include painting, lighting and roofing upgrades, as well as kitchen and bathroom re-fits.

But opposition human services spokesperson Nat Cook said the money was announced “six to twelve months ago”.

“They have simply now identified the houses to have the work,” she said.

“Again this is a minor portion of any maintenance that is needed . 

“It is merely a smoke and mirrors announcement to make it look like something is happening.  A welcome start but so much more is needed.” 

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