Written by Mark Shalovsky
Your Tenant Advisory Group has been very busy since my last updates in the May 2021 and August 2021 issues of Community Connect. It has also expanded its activities considerably.
All Link Wentworth Housing tenants should take an interest in its work and this is a good time to join it. It will provide you with genuine opportunities to learn about what Link Wentworth does and to make comments on its services, policies and procedures that will be listened to.
There are benefits for Link Wentworth as well. Link Wentworth has grown significantly to become one of the largest community housing provider in New South Wales. This growth brings with it many advantages to tenants but there are always risks that, when any organisation grows beyond a certain size, it can become impersonal, bureaucratic and unresponsive. Your contribution, through the Tenant Advisory Group, will help Link Wentworth to be as friendly, effective and responsive a community housing provider as it can be.
The Tenant Advisory Group has now expanded to include all tenants. Previously, there were separate tenant advisory groups for former Link Housing tenants (meeting at Chatswood) and for former Wentworth Community Housing tenants (meeting at Penrith, the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains). There is now one Tenant Advisory Group and it meets at the Chatswood and Penrith offices and online through video conferencing.
It usually meets about 4 or 5 times a year on a Tuesday morning at 10.30 am. The remaining meetings for this year will be on 11 July 2023 and 3 October 2023. There will also be a Christmas lunch in December 2023. If illness or disability prevents you from attending meetings at either the Chatswood or Penrith office, you can still attend these meetings online through video conferencing.
The major activities and achievements of the Tenant Advisory Group over this period have included:
- Andrew McAnulty, the Chief Executive Officer, attended most meetings and provided valuable briefings about the current work of Link Wentworth and its future plans. He has also provided much information on developments in the community housing sector and current thinking and research on housing and homelessness issues in Australia and in Britain.
- The property development staff provided briefings on several major new completed projects including the affordable housing developments in Rouse Hill at Civic Way and Caddies Boulevard, new generation boarding houses at North Sydney and Cammeray, the disability group home at Springwood, mixed community housing and affordable housing at Penrith. There was also a briefing about upcoming developments at in Ryde, Hawkesbury and Penrith.
- The building maintenance staff provided briefings on significant increases to the budget for maintaining and repairing Link Wentworth properties especially the former public housing properties and improved administrative procedures for tenants to request maintenance and repairs. There was also a review of its building maintenance providers and members were able to participate in the tendering for new providers.
- Communications staff attended most meetings and provided briefings on communications with tenants including improvements to the website, news articles, social media and the expansion of Community Connect, the quarterly tenant newsletter.
- Briefings were also provided at all meetings by the Community Programs staff on initiatives including new local drop in sessions, community gardening, the art competition, the scholarship program and computer courses.
- Members Susan Lucock and Mary Conyard have made a substantial contribution with their work on the Resilience Committee.
- Mary gave a speech about her experiences of financial hardship as a single mother and her fears of homelessness at the Big Housing Debate.
- Marie Sillars has done much advocacy work on the issue of housing stress and homelessness among older, single women. She gave evidence about this to the recent NSW parliamentary inquiry.
- John Murray completed the installation in five Link Wentworth properties of the street libraries that he designed and built himself.
- Several members attended the annual conference of the Australian Housing & Urban Research Institute. This is a network of the federal government, state governments and universities which conducts research on housing, homelessness, cities and urban policy. Several members also attended the annual conference of the NSW Community Housing Industry Association and Marie Sillars made a presentation.
- Susan Lucock and Mary Conyard, Marie Sillars, John Murray and I have written a number of important and interesting articles for Community Connect.
- And several new committees have been created which you can join – the Policy Committee, the Editorial Committee and the Communities Committee.
As a member of the expanded Tenant Advisory Group, you can join the new Policy Committee and review and comment on Link Wentworth policies. So far, this committee has reviewed a number of policies including the Appeals Policy, the Domestic and Family Violence Policy and the Child Protection Policy, the Youth Rent Incentive Scheme Policy, the Rent Subsidy Policy, the Eligibility For $5 Minimum Rent Policy and the Absence From Dwelling Policy.
You can also join the new Editorial Committee for Community Connect. The work of this committee is already evident in the March 2023 issue and in this issue. Since the merger, tenants have made over 30 important and interesting contributions.
Finally, there is a proposal to develop a new Communities Committee. This will give tenants the opportunity to find out about upcoming community activities and to discuss them with the Community Programs staff. You can even initiate new activities that you are interested in with a Community Connections Grant of up to $500.
I encourage all tenants to join their Tenant Advisory Group and to have their say.