From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli for 10 March

March 10, 2024 BY

A fairy story: Whatever happened to the days when neighbours were good friends? Image: SUPPLIED

When I acquired my little cottage in Ballarat I hoped for fairies at the bottom of the garden. That would have been perfection.

BE careful what you wish for. The property shares a public housing boundary. I landed the neighbour from hell!

They have the most beautiful, antisocial dog. It has been barking for four years, relentlessly. The size of a Shetland pony, it lives – day and night, in a pocket-handkerchief size backyard, together with a second dog. It is so unfriendly, at the slightest noise it hurls itself against the boundary Colourbond fence. Out of concern for what might come to pass should the dog break through, it has become necessary to reinforce the fence.

Despite complaints to council rangers – their lack of assistance is deplorable, and numerous letters to the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH), it has been impossible to resolve the on-going issue. It is worse!

In fairness, DFFH staff have visited. They were most charming and agreeable; they observed, sympathised, and acknowledged the problem; they promised to investigate and implement the necessary action. Disappointingly, nothing has transpired to resolve the issue. Patently, the fairness in the department’s title does not extend to landowners who are hapless victims of a wilful tenant’s recalcitrance. For some incomprehensible reason, the aggregate is decidedly imbalanced in favour of the public housing tenant – regardless!

A commercial leasing agreement, and there is no obvious impediment for public housing to be otherwise classified, would force tenant compliance; strict protocols would be applied. Failure might lead to an eviction. Legally, commercial tenancies undergo six monthly inspections. Why that same provision, and the basic tenets of neighbourly civility, do not apply to public housing is a conundrum. It ought. An adjoining neighbour’s backyard is a serious fire hazard.

The degree of tenant implacability notwithstanding, contacting the department is maddeningly problematic. While there has been, always, a willingness on the part of the department’s staff to expedite property fencing requests, there is, from experience, a palpable resistance; a determination to ignore calls and emails seeking to ameliorate behavioural irregularities. Maintaining contact with the same relevant public servant is impossible. Patently, it is easier to slight the aggrieved private landowner than suffer the intransigent tirade of abuse from the entitled tenant who has learned to manipulate the system – invariably to their own advantage.

Public housing is an imperative for civilised, social equality; however, it does not, by osmosis, grant tenants the right to behave badly; or to disregard acceptable social standards. In this absurdly politically correct world, the slightest provocation elicits cries of ‘discrimination’ on the basis of some imagined prejudice. “Everyone hates me!” “Life has dealt me another cruel blow”, syndrome.

In fairness to all, there should be changes!

The State Government’s decision to raze and redevelop 44 of Melbourne, high-rise, public housing towers is fraught with problems, and not without serious ramifications.

Constructed between the 1950s and 1970s, the buildings have been deemed outdated; no longer fit for modern living standards.

Part of Labor’s signature housing policy, those residents most affected have filed a class action to halt the demolition.

The overwhelming fear of those facing displacement is unimaginable. While the policy has merit, the dislocation demands serious sensitivity. The trauma of being forcibly removed from one’s home is unimaginable. Reduced financial circumstances should not be an impediment to residential security. There is potential for lives to be shattered.

The government should tread carefully!

Roland joins Brett Macdonald on radio 3BA and 10.45 Monday and can be contacted via [email protected].