The meagre tenant vacancy rates in the Australian Capital Territory have seen housing experts call for immediate action as residents complain about unsafe conditions.
One woman who spoke to the ABC said she is scared of her children being exposed to asbestos in their Canberra home.
“[Water] leaked down behind the tiles and made the glue weak, so tiles started falling off [the shower wall],” she said.
“I’ve been told that the glue isn’t asbestos, but the parts of the wall that had been ripped with the glue where the tiles are falling off is asbestos.”
The property is owned by ACT Housing, and they have done little to assist her, reassuring her that there isn’t an issue so long as the asbestos sheeting is undisturbed.
According to an ACT Housing spokeswoman, all public housing dwellings, including the property where the asbestos exposure was alleged, “continue to meet health and safety standards, and maintenance works are prioritised to ensure they meet those standards.”
“Housing ACT is committed to providing the best possible accommodation and support tenants who reside in public housing properties.”
Craig Wallace from the ACT Council of Social Service explained that the organisation had seen an increase in the number of complaints around the quality and maintenance of public housing. Mr Wallace explained that demand is outstripping supply in the nation’s capital.
“A person who is applying for social housing in the city faces a wait of … just on three years now, that is longer than JFK was president, than Kevin Rudd was prime minister — counting both terms — and would mean that a person is waiting until 2025,” he said.
It is likely that skyrocketing rental rates, as well as lower numbers of available properties for social housing, means that many Canberrans are struggling with their housing.