In order to make room for families in in need, people in their 70s and 80s fear they will be evicted, and many are not planning on going quietly.
The elderly faces of Australia’s biggest public housing shake-up have been told they can't occupy the homes they've had for years because others have a greater claim.
For those who depend on it, like grandmother Pamela Wood, the house has meant more than just a roof over her head for 30 years.More stories from Today Tonight
“This is my heritage. This is my everything. This is my life,” Wood said.
Wood has raised her family in a three bedroom cottage on Brisbane’s north side, but could be forced to move on, now that she's living alone.
She's just one of over 50,000 Queensland public housing tenants who received a letter outlining three options being considered by the State Government. One is moving them to a smaller property if they have spare bedrooms; two is getting people in to share with them; or three would be increasing their rents.
“We don't have a say here and it's not right,” Wood said.
Jeanette finds herself in the same situation, having lived in a Government provided home at Woodridge south of Brisbane for nearly half a century. When the 68-year-old moved in, she was told she'd have the house for life, but a lot has changed in 50 years, and Jeanette is discovering nothing's for life.
“I feel safe here. I don't want to have to start again,” Jeanette said.
It's what 74-year-old Dennis Mundt was also led to believe. But he's had to hand back his Toowoomba home of twenty years.
“I've laid awake for hours at night, I've twisted and turned, I've kicked the hell out of the bed. I've sat up thinking ‘what the hell is going on’,” Mundt said.
“There's a lot of good memories, but they've all been taken away from me ,and what have I got now? What have I got to show for everything? Nothing. Absolutely nothing,” he said.
The emphysema sufferer and his wife have been forced to rent in the private market, and it's sending them broke. The unit they were offered by the Housing Department was too small for them.
“We haven't got any for a rainy day. Your finance is stretched to the limit,” Mundt said.
Adrian Pisarski from Australia’s peak housing advocacy organisation, National Shelter, says it's just the start. State Governments nationwide will be watching Queensland closely. The reality is there are families being forced to live on the street, in cars, and moving from motel to motel.
“It will be traumatic. What we would encourage the Government to do is understand that there is fear and trauma about some of these measures, and work with tenant groups to reassure them that they won't force them, but they will provide options for them that will make it a possible choice,” Pisarski said.
Taxpayers fork out up to $3 billion a year to keep the welfare system running but it's still not enough, and it's running at a deficit, according to National Shelter. There are more than 400,000 properties across the country where the rents don't cover the cost of maintaining them.
“I think it'll be a very brave Minister who evicts an 85-year-old single pensioner from a house that she is raising her family and grandchildren in,” Pisarski said
Psychologist Dr Phil Jauncey agrees, and warns that any shift can only do the elderly tenants more harm than good.
“It would be almost impossible to think that they wouldn't struggle to cope,” Dr Jauncey said.
Sadly, thousands will now face struggle street head on, as they're asked to move on.What is the right solution for the public housing crisis?
This reporter is on Twitter at @AdamMarshallTT
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