Squalid houses and wilful damage by public housing tenants has seen the cost of repairs soar to more than $410m.
Squalid houses and wilful damage by public housing tenants has seen the cost of repairs soar to more than $410m.

Housing squalor ‘like out of Stone Age’

Public housing tenants in an inner-city Sydney dwelling set fire to the premises twice and lived among holes in the floor and termite nests, according to a shocked neighbour.

Locals said the Waterloo house and an adjacent property - which are both being repaired after wilful damage by burning or from the squalor of being a "drug house" - were into their second or third makeover.

A resident, John, who organised food parcels for women living in the house said when he went inside "it looked like something out of the Stone Age".

The house had holes burnt through the floor and live termite nests.

Workers found knives, syringes, piles of dirty underwear and large mud nests with insects in the walls.

Currently being renovated for a reported $100,000, the house is part of a ballooning public housing maintenance bill which has soared to $413m annually.

"Builders who have come in here to fix these houses say it costs upwards of about $40,000 each time," he told news.com.au. "So taxpayers are footing the bill.

"I'm not blaming the ladies who were in the house. They came with their male partners and kids and then the males took off and left them without any money.

‘It looked like something out of the Stone Age’: Taxpayers forking out millions in repairs for public housing destroyed by tenants.
‘It looked like something out of the Stone Age’: Taxpayers forking out millions in repairs for public housing destroyed by tenants.

"I organised food parcels and some of the neighbours tried to help.

"But in the end they did a midnight flit, I'm told owing rent money and leaving the place destroyed.

"The department has got to stop putting in people who destroy the place and leave taxpayers to foot the bill."

When news.com.au visited both houses in Waterloo the first had been gutted with walls and floors removed due to the fire damage and termites.

The three-bedroom dwelling is undergoing a complete renovation estimated to cost more than twice the usual clean up and repair.

The house is being converted into a five bedroom public rental.

Next door is a filthy rubbish-strewn drug house with used syringes among the debris, wrecked doors and broken wall fragments. It is unclear whether the syringes were left by drug users after the tenants departed.

Painters were in the house, although one worker said the dirty syringes meant the house was a chemical hazard.

A bathroom in the house is now undergoing a renovation worth thousands before the next tenants move in.
A bathroom in the house is now undergoing a renovation worth thousands before the next tenants move in.

The properties pictured are two-storey terrace houses built in the 20th century and owned by the NSW Housing Department, which has now been subsumed by Department of Family and Community Services (FACS).

The NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) acts as a landlord for 144,000 public housing properties across the state.

FACS police states tenants must pay "for the cost of repairs due to intentional damage or neglect".

But in reality, news.com.au has learned, the debts are rarely recovered and tenants at fault end up being moved to another public housing dwelling.

An audit report released by FACS last December revealed the bill for rubbish clean-ups after tenants moved out or were evicted, and maintaining ageing properties had soared 51 per cent since 2014.

The report showed the state government's bill for maintenance of social housing properties had increased from $223 million in 2014 to $413 million in 2018.

The workers fixing the house said it was a chemical hazard with the decaying rubbish and needles.
The workers fixing the house said it was a chemical hazard with the decaying rubbish and needles.

The LAHC said reasons for the ballooning costs included ageing properties, more calls from tenants requesting maintenance and higher costs due to damage and rubbish removal from properties when they became vacant.

In its policy, FACS says social housing tenants were "responsible for damage to the premises". "FACS will recover the cost of the repairs from the tenant in the situations where a LAHC maintenance contractor repairs the damage. These are tenant repair costs," it says.

"FACS will charge the tenant repair costs if the tenant has accepted liability, or where there has been a ruling in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) that the tenant is responsible or where the tenant vacated the property leaving it damaged and did not respond to FACS. The tenant is then responsible for paying these charges."

News.com.au has requested responses from FACS on what percentage of the total maintenance bill is due to damage, and how much of the damage costs are recouped via NCAT or other avenues.

candace.sutton@news.com.au

'This public housing dwelling in Waterloo is strewn with garbage and syringes.
'This public housing dwelling in Waterloo is strewn with garbage and syringes.
Now gutted, the house above, had holes burnt through the floor and live termite nests.
Now gutted, the house above, had holes burnt through the floor and live termite nests.
Bags of rubbish and a broken old washing machine in the back yard.
Bags of rubbish and a broken old washing machine in the back yard.
A broken grille door and smashed items strewn with garbage.
A broken grille door and smashed items strewn with garbage.
Used syringes left in the front bedroom of the house.
Used syringes left in the front bedroom of the house.
Carpet caked with sticky fluid.
Carpet caked with sticky fluid.
Tenants allegedly did a midnight flit after burning holes in the floor and not paying rent.
Tenants allegedly did a midnight flit after burning holes in the floor and not paying rent.
Smashed up floors and walls had to be removed and are now being replaced, costing tens of thousands.
Smashed up floors and walls had to be removed and are now being replaced, costing tens of thousands.
The dwelling is now being repaired — the bill being footed by taxpayers.
The dwelling is now being repaired — the bill being footed by taxpayers.
Squalor and decay left by tenants.
Squalor and decay left by tenants.
Corridor of the terrace house under repair.
Corridor of the terrace house under repair.
Syringe on a filthy carpet in a bedroom.
Syringe on a filthy carpet in a bedroom.

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