Public housing swap groups spark debate

PUBLIC housing tenants are increasingly turning to online "swap groups" to exchange homes in more preferable areas.

But group organisers deny claims the sites are used for public housing tenants to grab a chance at a seachange.

The sites allow public housing tenants to post pictures of their current property and offer to swap it with someone in an area where they would prefer to live.

One such group is Housing Commission Swap Queensland, which was made up of mainly Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast tenants.

It has so far attracted more than 1200 members.

Administrator Anita denied members were looking for a seachange.

A victim of domestic violence, she said she joined the group in desperation after the Department of Housing and Public Works took two years to move her. "I joined hoping to find someone to transfer with," she said.

"A lot of people aren't doing it for the seachange, they're on there for the same reason I was, or medical reasons."

Anita was eventually successful in her swap and said she did not support anyone who wanted a change of address without good reason.

While she said she had helped to organise plenty of mutual swaps on the website, the likelihood of the Department of Housing approving them were slim.

Dom, a Sunshine Coast mother-of-three with a baby on the way, is one of the tenants waiting to swap.

She said she had been waiting for a transfer to a larger home for her seven-year-old daughter, who has Asperger's, and her eight-year-old son with autism.

The siblings are currently forced to share a room.

While she was grateful to have a housing commission home to begin with, Dom said she felt the department should be more accommodating when situations changed for families.

"We are extremely lucky to have this help but like every family, situations change," she said.

"We are still trying with very low expectations, we are dealing with our situation the best we can and praying Housing will give us something soon."

From January 1-November 30, 2014, 31 homes across Queensland were approved for mutual exchange transfers. During the same period, 22 were declined.

Acting Housing Minister Glen Elmes said swap applications were prioritised to ensure high-need requests were dealt with first.

"The Facebook page might assist tenants to identify potential alternate tenancies, but it has no influence on how the department determines individual applications," Mr Elmes said.

For a swap to be successful, both tenants must seek approval from the Department of Housing and Public Works and strict conditions must be met, including medical, family or employment-related reasons.



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