Public housing — a dream turned sour


Getting public housing was like a dream come true — an escape from the never-ending cycle of evictions and unscrupulous landlords stealing my bond money. My flat is in a reasonably middle-class suburb, in a building accommodating 13 tenants and a community garden. Unfortunately the dream turned sour.

The public housing list is fictional. It no longer exists because NSW Labor governments have sold off, demolished and neglected housing. To actually get a tenancy, you need to be on the priority-housing list for the most disadvantaged. I had enough documented medical issues to get onto the priority list.

The “most disadvantaged” often means mentally ill. Nearly everyone in my building has a mental illness, some profoundly.

This is because the 1983 Richmond Report on mental health argued for deinstitutionalisation on humanitarian and health grounds, but was adopted by the NSW government on cost-cutting grounds.

The recommendation that resources be allocated to alternative community facilities to care for the mentally ill was ignored: they just shut down hospitals and public housing became their hospitals.

The result is public housing tenants residents living in fear for their safety in what has become a predatory environment.

My building has no security, so anyone can walk in. This works great for the tenants upstairs dealing drugs.

I questioned one man loitering in the stairwell, but he threatened me. One of the drug-dealing tenants has displayed a level of bullying, intimidation and threatening behaviour towards other tenants and other anti-social behaviour, such as poisoning of the garden and constant theft.

One tenant, who has severe mental health issues and is developmentally delayed, has been bullied by this resident to the point she fears for her safety. She has approached her doctor and case workers about getting an order against the perpetrator but they refused to help.

All the residents are either elderly or have mental illnesses. They are not well equipped to defend themselves.

I have now become a target of this anti-social neighbour. I’ve had threats of being shot by her partner, I’m woken two to three times every night with banging on the floor, yelling and screaming and a constant flow of traffic.

The police are no help. If called, they turn up, knock on the door of the anti-social tenants, who don’t answer. The police leave and the noise continues.

My attempts to get Burwood police to take action (I told them I identified as trans — a category with a high risk of facing violence — and was being threatened) merely resulted in the police telling me to stop calling them.

I finally had to go to Kings Cross police and talk to the "gay and lesbian liaison officers" to take out an apprehended violence order against the guy who threatened me.

With a caseworker from the Gender Centre, we lodged our complaints with the housing department, whose staff were dismissive and seemed to find the whole thing amusing.

One good thing to come out of this drama is the residents have learned to unite and stand up for ourselves. People who have not spoken in years are now looking out for each other.


I live in eastern suburbs, was grateful to get housing commission, now am scared for my safety. Constant bullying threats and been hit by both tenants one living under me and the other down the end of the block compound of six flats. Now boyfriends are hitting on me for these two female tenants and there sneaky trouble starting lying vigilanty behaviours. Now another tenant is being picked on. tryd to go court recently only to be dismissed the tenants boyfriend when he punched me in the throat. Good liers and they get away with it while honest folk like me working hard paying full market rent gets stomped on. It has now going on 3 years and still copping their abuse over and over and my daughter has moved across town to keep her safe. Help me please somebody it is hurting my mind, emotions and work. I feel trapped and lonely as have no family or any support. I am so starting to get very depressed.