Home at the centre of life: property managers supporting successful tenancies

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Anglicare Policy and Advocacy Advisor Leanne Wood reflects on the meaning of ‘home’ and the implications for people when they are evicted from private sector rentals

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Do you know the relief after a long day out, or a few days away, of arriving home to a place that is yours? The deep sense of comfort and belonging that comes with sleeping in your own bed, surrounded by familiar things?

We spend most of our lives dealing with the world — working, playing, shopping, dealing with bureaucracy and traffic and deadlines.

And if we are lucky, at the end of the day we have what poet Maya Angelou called “the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned”.

Not everyone is so fortunate.

The 2016 census reported nearly 6,000 people experiencing homelessness in Brisbane, including people sleeping rough, couch surfing, or in temporary or crisis accommodation. By all accounts, that figure is now significantly higher.

There is also another group hidden in plain sight, who struggle to maintain a home and a place to belong.

The increased stress on social housing waitlists is pushing many vulnerable people into either homelessness, or private sector rentals, where there is pressure on both tenants and property managers to maintain smooth and unproblematic tenancies — or as one website for landlords puts it, “a tenant that lives up to expectations”.

Living up to those expectations is difficult for tenants with challenging behaviours or circumstances — coping with addiction; with family and domestic violence; with mental health issues; or, with cultural and family obligations that put pressure on space, finances or relationships with neighbours.

On the other side of the coin, private sector real estate property managers are likely to have had little training about the multiple challenges faced by their tenants, and have fewer resources to handle difficult situations. It is a challenging job made far more difficult by a lack of information and support.

This means eviction can be an everyday threat for tenants who are perceived to be difficult.

Matthew Desmond, author of the New York Times bestseller Evicted, wrote:

“A lot of people didn’t know just what eviction does to people, how it really sets their life on a different and much more difficult path, acting not like a condition of poverty but a cause of it.”

Eviction can push people into fragmented combinations of short term or emergency accommodation, rough sleeping or couch surfing, all of which reinforce previous experiences of trauma and can intensify challenging behaviours.

It can also tear apart the fragile safety nets that people build in a neighbourhood or suburb. Anna, a resident of Brisbane’s West End, describes in the Anglicare Australia The Meaning of Home State of The Family Report how her neighbourhood is important to her sense of belonging:

“It is good to be acknowledged within the community. I like it when you go for a walk for a coffee and you bump into people who know you.”

Damien le Goullon, a staff member at Anglicare’s A Place to Belong, goes on to explain:

“Anna’s long term tenure [in West End]…meant that she had access to care when the voices she was hearing began to impact on her and her daughter’s wellbeing and her daughter moved out, leaving her living on her own. At this difficult time, Anna took solace in her home and community who helped her to remain connected and get the support she needed, saying ‘Some of my safety nets are the community I live in, my family and friends’.”

A sense of connection to the stories of a place, however small and individual they may seem, helps people feel like they belong, that they have something to hold on to. Cycling in and out of insecure tenancies does little to support people as they manage the challenges of their lives.

Many property managers understand this. They know, as sociologist Matthew Desmond also says, that home is the centre of a flourishing life. Their challenge, however, is balancing the needs of both tenants and landlords.

‘Supporting Successful Tenancies’ is a project currently being run by Anglicare in collaboration with QShelter, the Tenancy Skills Institute, Tenants Queensland, Compass Housing and the National Affordable Housing Consortium (NAHC), with the support of the Redlands City Council.

The focus of the project is an interactive and lively workshop for property managers coming up in September, which will provide some targeted, practical training, resources and a networking opportunity to support real estate professionals dealing with these complex tenancies.

The workshop agenda includes a ‘You Can’t Ask That!’ panel addressing some of the questions property managers might normally feel uncomfortable asking, as well as a ‘spotlight on resources’ session from organisations working with tenants.

While the first workshop location is Bayside in Cleveland, property managers from other areas are more than welcome to come along. We are hoping to offer similar workshops in other areas in the future.

Details of the workshop are as follows (download workshop flyer):

When: Wednesday 18 September 2019

Time: 7.15am for 7.30am–9am (includes light breakfast)

Where: Redlands Memorial Hall 28-42 Smith Street, Cleveland

Please RSVP by: Monday 16 September.

RSVP or more information: Leanne Wood at lwood@anglicaresq.org.au or call/text 0478 301 001

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