Jailbird public housing tenants holding on to properties
Dozens of Queensland public houses are potentially being left empty and unoccupied while their tenants serve time behind bars.
The Sunday Mail can reveal the Housing Department approved 88 absences from single-person public homes in 2019-20 because the tenant was incarcerated - up from the 67 approved in 2018-19.
The average absence for all incarcerated tenants in both financial years - including those not in single occupant homes - was about 3.4 months each, potentially leaving behind vacant houses.
The department has defended the figures, saying housing stability was crucial for people exiting the criminal justice system, for reasons like preventing re-incarceration and helping them to maintain employment.
"Just like the private rental market, tenants need to continue to meet their obligations like paying rent and maintenance even if they are away," the spokesman said.
"Whilst a primary tenant may be absent due to incarceration, there may be circumstances where the tenant's family is granted permission to remain occupying the property.
"Instances of approved absence does not always mean a property is sitting vacant."
Meanwhile, the department approved 424 temporary absences of more than eight weeks from public housing last financial year, as well as 610 in 2018-19.
"Reasons for vacancy can be for various reasons, like cultural responsibilities, health and medical treatments, and even domestic and family violence," the department spokesman said.
LNP housing spokesman Michael Hart said social housing was a privilege, not a right - with the Opposition pledging to bring back a three strikes policy for disorderly tenants.
"Social housing comes with certain individual responsibilities to be both good tenants and good members of society," he said.
"The LNP will make sure that abusive and unruly tenants are forced to make way for new housing applicants by bringing back the 'three strikes and you're out' policy, because public housing is a privilege that shouldn't be abused."
Housing Minister Mick de Brenni insisted Queensland had a nationally consistent approach for maintaining tenancies during incarceration, as he hit out LNP's three strikes plan - saying it did not work.
"They are recycling the same catchphrases they used when Campbell Newman was Premier," he said.
"We work on a case-by-case basis; to keep Queenslanders off the streets because we know that this is the best way to reduce recidivism."