Published: 03 December 2012
Extracted chapter from Griffiths, David (Ed.) Co-operators - Co-operation and Co-operatives, Southeast Housing Co-operative Ltd, 2012, pp 24-25.
I started with SouthEast in 2001 as Tenancy Worker. A friend of mine knew I was looking for a job and told me about an ad in the paper for a Tenancy Worker.
I knew what co-operatives were and I had previously lived at San Remo and was familiar with the fisherman’s Co-operative. I didn’t know anything about rental housing co-operatives.
It didn’t take me long once I started to realise how great a housing co-operative is.
I have personal contact with our members because it is long-term housing and you get to build-up a rapport with many of the tenants. You can put names to faces, which you can’t do in the private rental market.
With co-operatives you know the members are going to be around a long time. There is more stability and you’re not dealing with multiple landlords. With the co-op everyone’s on the same page here.
I worked in a real estate agency between 1986 and 1998. It was a small office in San Remo and you did everything - including rental properties. In the private sector it’s hard to match landlords and tenants because of their different expectations. In the private sector, often landlords will only rent their properties for the short term.
There are good landlords bad landlords, good tenants and bad tenants.
SouthEast is a good landlord. We try to be as understanding as possible in all situations. We do, however, have a responsibility to DHS - to look after their properties - taxpayer properties. We have very few evictions - about 4 since 2001. We give every person every chance before it comes to that stage. Evicting people is not as a pleasant part of the job - no one wants to make anyone homeless. I want to leave people I meet feeling better about themselves and their circumstances.
We’re also a good landlord because we do whatever maintenance we can within policies and budget. We have limited funds and it has to be divided over 160 properties.
We’ve been travelling a lot better Since January 2011. We were being buffeted around in stormy waters for some time. Ian, the General Manager, and the Board have put us back on the right track. The right track is to continue to provide housing for people - housing that is affordable.
As a housing co-operative we are committed to secure long-term affordable housing for our members for as long as they need it and until, and if, they decide to leave. This can only be the real basis for secure tenancy. We are not opportunistically looking for replacement tenants who will pay more than our existing tenants.
Part of my job is to introduce new tenants to the co-operative - what a co-operative is, how SouthEast came into being and what their rights and obligations are. It’s not just getting a house there are also privileges and obligations.
I really enjoy my job but there are times when it is difficult - an example being the annual rent review. The deadline for this year’s annual rent review was four months ago. By the deadline, however, about 40% of members had not returned their rent review form. It’s now four months later and there are a few members who have still not returned their form. One of these I have made five telephone calls and sent three letters.
These are the exceptions. I think of a lot of our members as friends. It’s not unusual for a member to ring up and have a brief chat and share personal things, events and memories. It’s a privilege.
I work with really good people. There are never any arguments. We have all been here a long time. The staff are very stable. We’ve got a very understanding and approachable manager.
I have lived in Traralgon for three years. It’s a four-hour journey to and from work. It was never really a consideration whether I would leave or not. I really like the job and the people. The more I do it the easier it gets. I’ve been told I’m loyal and dedicated and I’ve been told I’m a bloody idiot - take your pick.
Joy Haines is the Tenancy Worker at the SouthEast Housing Co-operative Ltd. She joined the co-operative in 2001. Prior to joining SouthEast she worked in a real estate agency.