Sounds pretty simple right? Not when it comes to social housing it ain’t.
Sure, you may think you can just swan into your local housing office, fill in a few forms, tick a few boxes then “voila”. Your new two-bedroom house plus jacuzzi is ready for you to move on in. Sigh! If only…
Before we have a look at the harsh, cold reality of the transfer process, let’s go through the reasons someone may want to move from their current property.
In my role as the Positive Life Housing Support officer, one of the most common reasons for a transfer is due to harassment from a neighbour. You may be sitting pretty in your tranquil housing unit where the loudest noise coming from your balcony is your melodic wind chime. Then, like bulldozer, in rolls the neighbour from hell with all night parties and a revolving door of guests.
At first you try the polite approach. A gentle knock on their door at 3am on day five of their marathon bender to ask if the noise could be lowered just a notch or two. Their response is not appropriate for publication, but needless to say, the issue remains unresolved. Now you’re on the receiving end of a barrage of harassment.
Now before we can hit the “transfer” button, Communities and Justice (formally Family and Community Services) want to see that you have tried to resolve the problem all on your lonesome. This includes speaking with your neighbour (done that…next….), reporting each incident to your Communities and Justice Customer Service Officer (CSO) requesting they invoke their anti-social behaviour policies (you may also complete a Communities and Justice Witness Report). You could include calling the police and keeping track of each police event number. Basically, the onus is on you to show evidence that the harassment is having a serious effect on you.
Another reason for a transfer is Compassionate reasons. This could mean that for health reasons, you need to be closer to a friend or family member for support. Or vice-versa. Perhaps it’s you that needs to provide the support. This can include practical things like grocery shopping and personal care to providing ongoing support.
A transfer for a medical condition and/or disability is another common reason for a transfer. You may be experiencing a decline in your mobility and your two-level terrace stairs have become a challenge to navigate. If making modifications to your bathroom will solve your mobility issues, then Communities and Justice are usually more inclined to do the necessary alterations rather than move you from your existing property.
Transferring for employment is a tricky one reason and comes with a crater-sized gap in the Communities and Justice transfer policy. If you have been offered a long-term employment opportunity at a location that is both impractical and unreasonable for you to travel to from your existing property, you can apply for a transfer.
Now for the crater-sized gap. If you’re currently living in Sydney and you have an employment offer in Coffs Harbour, and you’ve been approved for the transfer by Communities and Justice, fantastic!! New job and an approved transfer! Could life get any sweeter?
Reality slap alert: It can take considerable time for an offer of a property, even though your new employer needs you to start ASAP. Sure, you could move to Coffs Harbour ahead of the property offer and rent privately as an interim measure. The question is how do you afford to pay both private rental in Coffs Harbour while paying 25% of my income to Communities and Justice for the Sydney unit. Answer? You can’t.
You could relinquish the Sydney property but here’s the kicker, once you relinquish your Sydney property, your transfer is closed. You would then need to apply for social housing from scratch. Ouch!
A massive gap which Communities and Justice won’t budge on unfortunately.
So, what do I need to apply for a transfer? There are several forms as well as any necessary support evidence. Much the same way as with a new application, the transfer is assessed, and you are advised of the outcome.
One form in particular, is called the “Mutual Exchange Supplement”. This gives you the option of having your property listed on the mutual exchange register which allows for housing tenants to swap their properties.
However, Communities and Justice do not always actively monitor this register so you are best to take a proactive approach and advertise your property swap on services such as “Gumtree”. There is even a dedicated website for existing public housing tenants www.ourhouseswap.com.au.
The evidence required for a transfer includes the usual forms, i.e. updated bank statements, current medical assessment etc. Other evidence required will be in line with your reason for transfer such as evidence of employment offer, housing statement from a family member detailing the type of support you will be able to provide and of course NSW Police event numbers depending on your situation.
Before you start packing your belongings and organising your farewell to the neighbourhood party, understand that the time from application to moving can literally take months. Communities and Justice consider that as you are housed, priority for assessment and offer is understandably given to those at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
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