PUBLIC housing tenants in Liverpool will be among the first in NSW to pay a vacant-bedroom tax for empty bedrooms within their dwellings.
Single tenants and pensioners living in homes with several bedrooms have been told to "pay up" if they refuse to give up their homes, and to move to a smaller premises by September. Singles will pay an extra $20 each week per vacant bedroom, and couples will pay $30 extra each week if they refuse to find more suitable accommodation.
Shane Jahshan and his eight-year-old daughter Shanoa have lived in public housing for about seven years. Because of a departmental error, Mr Jahshan's son — of whom he has equal custody — was removed from the lease.
As a result, he too has been advised that he will have to pay the extra $20 a week to stay in his three-bedroom home in Hinchinbrook.
Suffering from depression and anxiety, Mr Jahshan has been unable to work for years and relies solely on his disability pension to feed, clothe and house his daughter.
He said having the extra bedroom had been a godsend to him, especially during those times when he was depressed and needed additional support.
"In the last 12 months I lost both of my parents," Mr Jahshan said. "I know everyone's parents die, but it was hard for me.
"Having that room free during my son's absence meant I could have my family stay for a couple of nights to support me and look after my daughter. My daughter is eight.
"It is not her responsibility to care for me when I am in that state, and I try to protect her from seeing me like that.
"But if we are forced into a two-bedroom place, then I will not be able to accommodate the support that I need and that puts me and my daughter in a bad situation."
Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said the new vacant bedroom charge was necessary to provide housing access to more needy families on the waiting list.
She said there were more than 17,000 houses with three or more bedrooms occupied by single people or couples, which had left 35,000 bedrooms vacant.
Opposition spokeswoman for housing Sophie Cotsis said the new policy would lead to homelessness.
"Barry O'Farrell's bedroom tax is harsh and heartless and will affect the most vulnerable communities, such as pensioners and people with disabilities," she said.