Woman set to lose house thanks to Taxi industry shakeup
A WOMAN faces losing everything she has worked for because of the Victorian government's decision to shake up the taxi industry.
Sandy Spanos is only 58, but now she could lose her house and be unable to pay for treatment for her cancer, which she was diagnosed with two years ago, because the reform will leave her and her husband in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.
Mrs Spanos invested in three taxi licences so she could enter retirement comfortably with a good superannuation, but she said it has all been ripped from her.
"What did I do wrong?" She told news.com.au.
The Victorian government wants to deregulate the taxi industry by abolishing taxi licences and introducing a single registration for taxis, hire cars and ride-share services like Uber.
Taxi licences costs cabbies $500,000 and it's seen as an investment that will later help fund retirement.
The government now wants to buy back these licences, and has proposed to compensate taxi licence holders by paying $100,000 for their first licence and $50,000 for up to three others.
Mrs Spanos has three licences, meaning she would receive $200,000, but she still has a loan of $300,000 she needs to pay back to the bank.
Her husband drives taxis but she said he was losing income.
"I can't pay the bank back. I've still got bank loans and my husband's income has almost decimated and my assets are being seized and I'm going to lose my house," she said.
"I've told the government and they simply don't care."
Mrs Spanos said she wasn't alone and there were 5000 families who were at breaking point.
"(The government) said no person will be left behind but who am I? Am I an alien kicked to the gutter?" She said.
"People are committing suicide and dying because of this, my kids are going to inherent a legacy debt."
Mrs Spanos said the government either needed to leave licences as they were or buy back licences at a fair price.
"Offer us $300,000," she said.
"People have sold properties to buy taxi licences to fund their retirement."
Mrs Spanos has had to put her house up for collateral and the bank can seize it if loan payments stop.
"I'm going to have to sell my house and that's 30 years of work between me and my husband go down the gurgler," she said.
"I have to start again. I'm 58, how do I start again?"
Mrs Spanos has been part of the band of cabbies protesting the reform. A convoy of taxis drove slowly along the Bolte Bridge in central Melbourne this morning during peak hour traffic and rallied outside parliament.
"I'm not an activist. I'm a mother and a grandma and I have a right to enjoy what's left of my life. Why am I placed in this position, why?" She said.
According to Mrs Spanos, the new reform has caused a whole number of issues among those in the taxi industry in Victoria.
People are suffering from mental health issues, heart attacks and domestic violence.
"It's horrendous. So many people are in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt," she said.
Mrs Spanos' husband has lost his will to work and most of the people with the loans are middle-aged or elderly and are hardly making an income anymore.
"The government needs to start governing for the people and need to protect their citizens," she said.
"Why don't the politicians hand over their super and see how they like it?
"We've lost everything that we've worked for and I'm tired of it and just want to live my life.
"We're dropping like flies, we're slowly dying."
Mrs Spanos said taxi licence holders were not asking for charity, "just what's rightfully ours".
"It's disgusting, I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be in the situation I'm in," she said.
"I've been a lawful citizen, paid my taxes, did everything a good citizen does, and I find myself in this situation where I feel like I'm destitute.
"I'm a human being, a person. We all are."
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the government needed to sit down with taxi drivers and negotiate a fair deal because drivers needed certainty.
The Victorian government has previously said introducing new licensing requirements would put passengers first and create a level playing field for all industry participants.
"This will drive greater consumer choice, better service, and will place downward pressure on fares," the government said.
The government claims it will be cheaper to now operate a taxi or hire car as the annual licence fee of $23,000 will be axed.
In addition to the government's buyback scheme, it also established a $50 million Fairness Fund to provide targeted support to those doing it tough as a result of the changes.
Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said more than $420 million would go towards supporting the industry and it was the largest transition and support package in Australia.
"We will continue to work closely with and support the industry while we get on with regulating rideshare, and creating fairer, safer and more responsive services for passengers," she said.
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