A PETITION has been launched by Labor candidate for Ipswich Jenny Howard to protest what she says is the State Government's unfair housing policy.
Ms Howard has taken issue with the government's "temporary absence policy" which only allows tenants to take a maximum four weeks of holidays in a year.
But Minister for Housing Tim Mander has told the QT that "the new rules are about making sure public housing is available for those who need it most".
The QT understands that average public housing rent in Ipswich is $131 per week, less than half of the median private rent of $300 per week. Over the past two and a half years, the State Government says it has reduced the public housing waiting list in Ipswich by 36% from 1301 to 836, and that the new rules are designed to stop the trend under the former government of hundreds of tenants taking long breaks.
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"Under the old rules, properties often sat vacant for up to 12 months while the registered tenants were off on lengthy holidays or serving prison sentences," Mr Mander said.
"Under the new policy, public housing tenants are entitled to take up to four weeks of holidays each year. However, longer absences can be approved on a case-by-case basis for things like health issues, family crises or domestic violence/child safety issues. The new rules are about making sure public housing is made available for those who need it most."
But Ms Howard said she was concerned by what she was hearing from tenants.
"When I've been out and about, I've heard of people who have been putting off family holidays or helping to care for sick relatives because they're worried that if they are away too long, they will lose their house," Ms Howard said.
"Imagine if a tenant in the private sector was entitled to be in a home, paying their rent on time and helped a daughter or son care for a new grandchild for a few weeks in another part of Queensland.
"If they were evicted, the community would be outraged.
"This policy is no different and should immediately be reversed."
Mr Mander said Ms Howard's comments were "cynical scaremongering from the ALP".
"The four-week cap only applies to holidays and would have no impact on people travelling away from home to care for sick relatives.
"Tenants in the private rental market don't have their rent subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of $8000 each year. Given the level of the subsidy, it's important to make sure public housing is not left sitting vacant, particularly when there are still 18,500 households on the waiting list."
Ms Howard's petition is at jenniferhowardforipswich.com.