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AU Housing Minister Tim Mander has cracked down on public housing lifestyle 'swaps' with new laws

Property Here - Wednesday, July 03, 2013

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Linda Richardson and her granddaughter Tathrah Newton, 13, pictured at their Bellmere home, are hoping to move to a quieter location. PIC: Chris Higgins Source: News Limited

PUBLIC Housing tenants swapping homes online for a more leisurely lifestyle are being pinged by a new government policy.

But people with legitimate reasons for swapping can still horse-trade freely in cyberspace.

One tenant seeking a sea change offered to swap a "huge" subsidised Stafford home for something nice "anywhere near a beach" on the Sunshine Coast or north Brisbane.

The ad touted the spacious backyard of the Stafford home, two sheds and big kitchen.

The Department of Housing and Public Works allows mutual exchanges of similar-sized properties under certain conditions, including two years of good tenancy.

But the Department didn't apply rules for transferring to a public housing property, which included the need to live in a particular area to gain employment or meet other obligations.

Asked if his office was questioned about the lack of consistency, Housing Minister Tim Mander said policy changes were needed immediately.

"You can't just swap houses because you want a sea change," he said. "This is a privilege."

Yet he was flexible about people swapping for legitimate reasons: good news for Linda Richardson, a 66-year-old disabled pensioner from Caboolture who needs a quieter location to raise her 13-year-old granddaughter Tathrah who has a form of autism that requires medication.

"I don't mind downsizing, I just want what's best for Tathrah," she said.

Leichhardt public housing tenant Terry Knox, who cares for his granddaughter and her son, wants to swap to a house in Woodridge to save $100 a week petrol driving an hour to work.

The department received 101 applications for mutual exchanges last financial year and approved 43. There are 72,000 subsided properties in Queensland, and 23,000 people on waiting lists.

Tenants pay 25 per cent of their income in rent, slashing some rental costs by more than two-thirds.

The Department denied it was losing track of tenants who were swapping properties because swaps had to be approved and any secret swaps were punishable.

All swaps needed to be approved by the Department, which kept records of the tenancies. Any unapproved swaps are breaches resulting in penalties.

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