Public Housing

Reporter: Jonathan Creek

Soiled beds, rubbish, even rotting food - it's absolute squalor in suburban Australia -- and you're paying for it.

They are the taxpayer funded homes of those who claim they need them most -- public housing tenants who pay subsidised rent and nothing for maintenance. Maybe that's why the properties end up damaged.

Jodie moved into one Melbourne street only weeks before the tenants of the house did a runner. They left pretty much everything behind.

A Today Tonight investigation has revealed what can only be described as a national disgrace. Despite the rental shortage, it seems some don't get it or just don't care.

Independent politician Chris Hannah says, "The kitchen's been wrecked, there is rubbish and personal affects strewn throughout the house, upstairs and downstairs, in the bathroom, in the toilet, absolutely everywhere", he said.

In New South Wales, $385 million dollars is spent each year fixing trashed public housing; in Victoria $103 million and Queensland $112 million; and Tasmania spend $30 million - Australia-wide, that's nearly $1 billion a year.

"People who live in these houses are being provided housing by you, me and the rest of the community, we're funding them and I think that's a reasonable entitlement, for these people to respect our investment in our housing" said real estate agent Tim Fletcher.

Tim believes it's time the public housing system followed the lead of the private sector by introducing lasting ramifications for tenants who trash homes. "The private market gets tough and so it should because it's protecting people's assets", he said.

Real estate agents have a national database for private rental bad tenants -- find yourself on that list and you'll find it very hard to rent a house -- anywhere.

Agent Neil Jenman agrees it's time to break the cycle, demanding tenants show more respect so governments don't waste hundreds of millions of dollars on repairs or even complete rebuilds. "I believe anybody who trashes a public housing property should be charged with an offence and should be barred from ever renting a public housing property again for the rest of their lives. There should be a list of these offenders so the public housing properties can go to people who need them", Neil said.

This is where you can make a difference -- help the Federal Government or Housing Commissions in each state to compile their own bad tenants list . If you know of a trashed Commission House, after the show, go to our website at www.yahoo7.com.au and follow the prompts to today tonight, then follow the links and add the address to our database.

We'll then deliver it to all the relevant authorities for you.