A few facts...
Only a very small percentage of Public Housing dwellings are 1 bedroom units.
Consequently, there is a HUGE percentage of 2 bedroom dwellings being occupied by single people.
Fact 2: It is NOT EASY to find a swap. Even with the super efficient Our House Swap website it can still be hard to find something that suits your needs.
Fact 3: It is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to get a transfer through the official channels - the average wait being 2 years.
State Housing Authorities rely on a large percentage of people to get so frustrated with the process, that they will give up their housing security and move into private rental just to obtain appropriate housing for their family.
So when you do find a compatible swap, it is like WINNING THE LOTTERY!
When Mrs T and the Dean family found each other and liked each other's properties - they thought all their dreams had come true.
Mrs T lived in a 3 bedroom freestanding house with a big back yard. All her children had grown up and moved on and now she needed to downsize - but she still needed an occasional carer to stay overnight with her due to health problems.
The Dean family had two young children and another one on the way. They were all crammed into a two bedroom unit with nowhere for the children to play.
Perfect match I hear you cry!
But alas - that's when the dream turned into a nightmare.
It takes a special kind of callous indifference to screw up such a positive step forward for both families. Enter Housing Tasmania...
The game is called Pass The Buck - Make Excuses - Deny All Responsibility - Don't Make a Decision - Collect Pay - Get Promotion.
Firstly - it took over 4 weeks for someone to look at the forms.
Mrs T's was rejected citing that she was only entitled to a 1 bedroom.
At this point, a dash of common sense would tell any reasonable person that finding a swap from a 3 bd to a 1 bd and vice versa would be non-existant.
Mrs T then produced a medical certificate to say that it was sometimes necessary for her to have overnight care.
A dash of common sense would have seen the oversight righted.
These are, after all, real people - not just numbers or statistics.
No luck. Mrs T was denied a second time.
The POLICY states:
Two weeks later she was granted an interview with a Housing Supervisor who callously told her that "there is no way in hell you will be approved for the unit". Housing Tasmania then attempted to force her to sign papers for a 1 bd Transfer - which could take anything up to 2 years to find an appropriate unit. When she refused to sign, the Supervisor told her to "just stay where you are then."
So in Housing's view, it is better to let Mrs T rattle around in a house way too large for her, with a yard she can't maintain and leave the Dean family squished into a tiny unit... rather than apply a dash of common sense and allow the swap.
Let's repeat the Policy:
Up the food chain... to the people who are tasked to oversee and investigate (stupid) decisions made by public servants... the elected representatives of the PEOPLE.
Unfortunately, the elected representative of the Dean family, Mr Scott Bacon MP, did not investigate the case, but simply regurgitated the line fed to him by the public servants.
[I bet it was a form letter - they have about 20 different versions - I've got enough form letters to wallpaper a highrise]
The Housing Manager then reiterated that the swap was "not going to happen" and insisted that the Dean family fill in Transfer forms - which they duly did. How long was the list for a 3bd? About two years!
With another baby on the way this would leave a family of five in a 2 bedroom unit for another two years because NOBODY had an ounce of common sense.
TWO MONTHS after all this started, the stress inflicted upon all parties is taking its toll. The new Dean baby is due to make an appearance in a few short weeks but is found to be in distress and undersized. The midwife cites anxiety of the mother as the cause.
Mrs T has applied to have the decision reviewed by the Housing Review Committee.
A date is set - then cancelled.
The Minister, who is supposed to be responsible for the actions of Housing Tasmania, is informed of the debacle. [don't hold your breath that Ministers ever do anything but send out more form letters]
Surprise Surprise. Regardless of the fact that there are NO 1bd units available and that several other single people have been approved swaps to 2 bd units just the month before, the Minister regurgitates the original decision without a proper investigation.
Enter the Ombudsman. He has spent the last few weeks requesting information from Housing Tasmania with no luck. He refuses to accept the regurgitated public servant response and INSISTS that someone (anyone!) inject a dash of common sense into the situation.
He requests that the Director of Housing review the decision properly.
So now - because all the underlings are incapable of making a common sense decision, the Director of Housing has to step in and sort out their mess.
And so - as all good fairytales go - we have a happy ending.
The swap can now go ahead because of pressure from the Ombudsman who seems to be the ONLY one with any common sense.
I wish I could report that this situation was exceptional. Alas, this sort of chaos occurs every day in every office - and the Ombudsman is not always there to sort out the red tape.
Huge congratulations to Mrs T and the Dean Family - Perseverance really does pay off sometimes!
I wish you all wonderful, happy futures and best of luck with the new baby.