While these awful stories are real and often have tragic outcomes, it is important to realise that Boarding House Operators are as diverse as their residents. They are not all negligent property tycoons who don’t care for their residents. This minority is often over-represented in the stories we see in the media and is unfair for the operators who we work with, who are actually trying to make an honest (and legal) living by providing affordable and accessible accommodation at a reasonable standard.
It is important to remember that without the availability of boarding house accommodation, homelessness figures would soar. For those on a low income, private rental prices (and bonds) are unaffordable, social and community housing waiting lists are years long, and many people don’t have a good rental history which private landlords require when applying to rent somewhere. The BHOS has had increasing contact with operators who are trying to do the right thing via our operator forums over the past 3 years. In getting to know these operators, we have found that many actually do have resident’s needs at the heart of their business operation, as shown in the examples below.
One Marrickville landlady (pensioner) owns two boarding houses, and has taken in many of our clients- some of who suffer mental health issues, a poor rental history and have other struggles with drugs and alcohol. She is caring and kind and acts almost as a mother to some of them, cleaning up after them and even providing food for them when times are particularly tough.
We also work closely with a Petersham Real Estate Manager, who also overlooks poor rental history and gives our clients a chance to rent rooms in a selection of boarding houses on his books. He goes out of his way to find them appropriate accommodation (ie. a ground floor room for a less-able resident), sometimes at the very last minute. He checks in on them regularly and uses our workers to liaise with residents if and when problems arise with their occupancy.
A 90 room boarding house in Ashfield caters for residents who choose to have meals included in their occupancy fees. Two couples own and manage this large property and run a very tight ship, ensuring that residents are well aware of their rights, responsibilities and have support prior to moving in. The place is fire safe, very clean and has a community feeling for such a large boarding house. Services are encouraged to attend to residents and are encouraged to visit the house regularly.
These are just some examples of good practise operators, who are never represented in the media. Despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, and having varying sizes of boarding houses, these operators manage to provide a safe, comfortable and affordable living space for marginalised renters. Sometimes it’s important to hear the other side of the story