UWS researcher says Housos film has lost the plot

UWS researcher Dallas Rogers has criticised the new Housos movie, saying the exaggerated characters and plot reinforce negative public attitudes about tenants and affect real people’s lives.

"Certainly tenants feel that satire plays an important role in public debate, but many would prefer the parodies to not be directed at people in society who are already vulnerable," Dr Rogers said.

West Pennant Hills actress Vanessa Davis, who plays the character Vanessa in both the controversial comedy series and the film, argued it was never the intention of Housos to poke fun at society’s underprivileged.

‘‘Months and months of research was involved in the first series,’’ Ms Davis said.

‘‘We went out to the housing commission people, we befriended them, took on their stories.’’

As part of the UWS Residents’ Voices project, Dr Rogers organised public screenings of the previous television series of Housos, set in the fictional public housing estate of Sunnyvale.

A further study gauged the reactions of tenant and non-tenant viewers.

‘‘The research was sparked by the strong opposition to the TV series from public housing tenants in western Sydney, who approached their local Member of Parliament [Mt Druitt state Labor MP Richard Amery] seeking to ban the show while it was still in production,’’ Dr Rogers said.

He said film and television are the key places where people are stigmatised and the screening of Housos Vs Authority — the feature film version of Housos — was likely to entrench existing prejudices.

‘‘In my research, most of tenants challenged the view among non-tenants that Housos is a true reflection of life in a public housing estate,’’ he said.

Dr Rogers said public housing provided an important affordable housing option for low-income working families, pensioners and others that have difficulty entering the home ownership or private rental market in an increasingly unaffordable housing sector.

Pejorative stereotypes and negative neighbourhood perceptions can have very real social  and health implications, he said.

‘‘Stigmatised neighbourhoods face difficult challenges even without shows like Housos, such as discrimination by employers on the basis of postcode, businesses being reluctant to operate in or near estates, and the selling off of social housing to the private market to promote mixed communities,’’ Dr Rogers said.

‘‘It’s time for us to look past housing estates and their tenants as an object of derision and carefully consider public housing options for low-income citizens within our cities.’’

Ms Davis said: ‘‘They definitely need more assistance.

‘‘Hopefully through all this we can get rid of the separation between housing commission people and the rest of the community.’’

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