Minister to review Housing SA debt and recovery methods
A root and branch review of Housing SA debt and recovery methods is being undertaken following an increase in unpaid debt over the past 12 months.
Social Housing Minister Zoe Bettison said the review will also look at the Private Rental Assistance Program which helps low income South Australians into private rentals by providing bond guarantees and a fortnight's rent.
"I will be pursuing a number of strategies aimed at arresting the growth in debt including early intervention policies designed to stop people racking up bills in the first place," Ms Bettison said.
"In particular, I will be having a close look at the PRAP given private renters now owe more money than Housing SA residents."
Ms Bettison said she has sought advice on a number of strategies to improve the overall management of Housing SA customer debt.
"For both private rental tenants and public housing tenants, we need to intervene earlier to ensure debts are not accrued.
"Some of these measures will also free up staff so they can focus on preventative and mitigation strategies."
Measures being looked at include:
* a targeted repayment blitz by Housing SA
* revised standard letters so customers clearly understand their responsibilities
* targeted strategies for customers with long standing or large debts
* SMS text reminders
* increasing repayment amounts
* earlier referral to internal debt recovery team or private collection agencies
* improving options for online payment and self-managed debt arrangements
* introducing online accounts and self- managed repayments similar to the ATO.
Ms Bettison said most Housing SA customers do the right thing.
"About 85 per cent of people with a debt are on a payment plan and are repaying their arrears. And about 74 per cent of debts are under $1000."
Ms Bettison said there will always be extenuating circumstances that override these guidelines.
"Increasingly, public housing tenants are the people in our community who are most in need including those with a disability, women experiencing family violence and people at risk of homelessness.
"Typically, customers with multiple bonds are people in crisis, often women and children fleeing domestic violence and people with severe mental illness," she said.
"It is always preferable for Housing SA to provide assistance than for people to face the alternative of being homeless.
"Combined with Housing SA's new service delivery model that involves intense case management so people can maintain their tenancies, these reforms will ensure our public housing safety net remains sustainable and workable into the future."