Social housing unit destroyed in Devonport, in Tasmania's north, angering those on housing waitlist

social housing unit destroyed in devonport, in tasmania's north, angering those on housing waitlist

A social housing unit has been wrecked as nearly 5,000 Tasmanians wait for a secure roof over their heads. (Supplied: Facebook)

The trashing of a social housing unit in Tasmania's north, with photos of the aftermath posted to social media, is "absolutely atrocious", a woman on the housing waitlist says.

This month, images of an in-demand social housing unit, with plasterboard smashed, doors broken, the bathroom damaged and a trail of mess were circulated on social media.

The Devonport property is owned by Homes Tasmania, the state's housing and homelessness system manager, and will be unliveable for some time while it undergoes repairs.

"It could have been used for someone else, it just makes me really angry that someone would do that … knowing the housing crisis we're in now," Aymee Hewitt said.

Ms Hewitt has been living in a cabin at a caravan park with her partner and two sons, aged 9 and 2, since having to move out of a Devonport rental of seven years in January.

"We've been on the waitlist since," she said.

The family is already outgrowing the cabin but Ms Hewitt, who is desperate for a new home, will soon give birth to a third boy.

In the meantime, she calls Anglicare or Housing Connect hoping for good news.

"I ring every day for updates and give them updates on me, like how close I am to giving birth, but they still can't give me a timeframe on how long it will take," she said.

"They say it could be a couple of months; it could be a couple of years before we'll get a place."

Unable to house someone in need

The destruction of the Devonport unit has come as a shock to Homes Tasmania chief executive Eleri Morgan-Thomas, who said it would add further strain to an already buckling housing waitlist.

"I feel upset about it," she said.

"That is an enormous amount of damage to a property."

Ms Morgan-Thomas said a maintenance team would assess the extent of damage and what was required to bring the property back up to standard.

"I'm worried about the cost, but really, I'm worried about the amount of time that the property is offline and we're not able to help somebody in need from the housing register, that's what upsets me most," she said.

According to Tasmania's latest housing figures, from March this year, there are 4,710 applicants on the housing register, and priority applicants are waiting an average of 85 weeks for a property.

It is a situation made worse amid the cost-of-living crisis, TasCOSS chief executive Adrienne Picone said.

"We've seen a lot of increases in interest rates, which means that it's harder for people to afford to buy a home, and of course, what we've also seen is enormous increases in the private rental market," she said.

"This forces more people onto the social housing register."

And the time on the register is often "unsafe and unsuitable".

"Many of our fellow Tasmanians are living in overcrowded living conditions, we see them having to stay with friends or couch surf, we see them setting up tents on the sides of the river or in the railway roundabout."

Anyone with damage debt to Homes Tasmania can't get another social home

Homes Tasmania is investigating who is responsible for the damage.

Ms Morgan-Thomas said she understood a tenant at the property had recently vacated, but the matter was "not straightforward".

She said Homes Tasmania used a standard residential tenancy agreement, as the private market does, with a condition report at the beginning and end of the tenancy.

Where there is significant damage to a property, it is usually referred to the police, which Ms Morgan-Thomas expects will happen in this case, depending on what the investigation uncovers.

If costs are incurred outside the terms of the lease, the organisation will record a debt for the tenant to repay.

"If you have a debt with Homes Tasmania, you're not able to be housed until the majority of that debt is cleared," Ms Morgan-Thomas said.

"We encourage people to not have a debt with us … they're likely to want to be housed in the future, so we want them to have their options open to them, and we're happy to work with them to have a debt repayment plan."

But she stressed damage to properties was rare.

"The tenants that you don't hear about are … the vast majority of tenants who do the right thing — pay their rent on time, look after the property and actually value it," she said.

Tasmania Police said it was aware of the damaged unit but no official report had yet been made to police.

They urged anyone with information to call Devonport Police or Crime Stoppers.

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