Housing maintenance “a schmozzle”

Nicole Howard and her neighbour Cefyn (Kev) Parsons love where they live in Mount Gambier but their Housing Trust homes "just need some work".

“It’s a schmozzle,” said Mount Gambier resident Nicole Howard describing the maintenance system of the SA Housing Authority (formerly known as the South Australian Housing Trust), and she welcomed a recently announced $180m injection into the State’s social housing network.

Premier Peter Malinauskas announced that the money would build 400 new public homes – 150 of which are expected to be in regional areas of the State – as well as renovate 350 empty housing trust homes and enable a maintenance blitz on 3000 other properties.

Maintenance and a revision of the system that delivered that maintenance is needed, according to Ms Howard who has lived in a Housing Authority home in Mount Gambier for seven years and described a myriad of maintenance issues she had experienced and trouble with having them addressed in a timely fashion.

“We have cracks everywhere, and black mould in the shower grout… it took two years to fix the floor,” she said describing how her floor had been so loose and warped that items on her shelves would move when people walked on the floor, and one of her children got their foot stuck when a loose floor board dropped away, and when gaps began to appear below kitchen tiles it was found that her kitchen cupboards were dropping due to termites eating through the floor joists.

She described how she had put a tarpaulin up to protect an outside wall from rain in an attempt to stop water seeping through a wall into her toilet area.

“The toilet usually has an inch of water on the floor,” Ms Howard said.

Sheets of iron lifted in the wind to the extent Ms Howard was frightened they would peel off and fly down the street, a skylight fell out of the ceiling, skirting boards came adrift from the walls, and salt damp was a reoccurring issue.

Her neighbour, Cefyn (Kev) Parsons had lived in the adjourning duplex for 30 years and had experienced similiar problems.

“Salt damp doesn’t get fixed, it just gets painted straight over the top and it is visible again within two or three months,” he said.

“And sometimes it is just easier and quicker to fix things yourself,” he said describing how he had been on the roof himself to screw down loose sheets of iron.

The neighbours said the Housing Authority itself didn’t seem to be the problem, but a revision of the system of the delivery of maintenance after a problem is reported was needed.

Despite this, both appreciated their homes.

“The properties are old – they are nothing flash, but I love my house – it is home,” said Ms Howard.

“It’s just that the houses need a bit of work.

“We know the Housing Trust can’t have a bottomless pit of money, but just keep up on the maintenance, and have a system of proper oversight is what needs to be done.”

Speaking with The Border Watch, Minister for Human Services Nat Cook said the South East would receive its share of the maintenance funds for social housing.

Ms Cook said there was not yet an “absolute” as to where the money would be spent in the regions but she confirmed Mount Gambier was on the radar.

“There is an improvement in turn around for the State in regards to rentals but there are still 32 vacant properties in Mount Gambier and out of that there is a large proportion of them currently waiting for upgrades in order to be re-tenanted in a more timely fashion,” Ms Cook said.

“There will be some work starting soon on some of the empty houses statewide and we are going to keep it going sooner rather than later because one night of an empty home is one night a family is sleeping in the cold and we need to do better.”