Re­view rocks ten­ants

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By LAU­REN PRIESTLEY

STATE hous­ing ten­ants are reel­ing at the news that all of their te­nan­cies are up for re­view.

The So­cial Hous­ing Re­form Bill passed its third read­ing in Par­lia­ment on November 20 with­out a party vote be­ing called.

About 3000 ten­ants are ex­pected to be moved into pri­vate rental prop­er­ties by 2017 as a re­sult of the re­views.

The de­vel­op­ment is ex­pected to cost the Gov­ern­ment $46.8 mil­lion over two years be­cause higher needs ten­ants who move into the empty state houses will be el­i­gi­ble for more fi­nan­cial sup­port from ben­e­fits.

The bill says min­is­ters will be able to iden­tify groups of peo­ple such as the elderly or dis­abled who will not be sub­ject to the re­views.

But Grey Lynn ten­ant Sue Wil­liams is wor­ried that there are no guar­an­tees.

The 62-year-old says the news has caused peo­ple liv­ing in her block of Hous­ing New Zealand pensioner flats un­due stress.

‘‘They al­ways say they won’t do it but it’s not cer­tain. It will be dis­as­trous for us if it hap­pens,’’ she says.

‘‘The sick and the elderly are the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in the coun­try and it’s even more stress that they re­ally don’t need.’’

Ms Wil­liams says she does sup­port parts of the bill in­clud­ing the aim of help­ing needy fam­i­lies.

She has been known to tell sin­gle friends liv­ing in two or three-bed­room state homes that they should move out and make room for big­ger fam­i­lies in need.

‘‘I just can’t stand greed. One per­son does not need so many bed­rooms. Hous­ing is a ba­sic need and it should be met.’’

Pauline Johns, 71, says her Grey Lynn pensioner flat is home.

‘‘I’ve been here for about 15 years and I thought I was mov­ing here for life.

‘‘I think it would be quite ter­ri­ble for me and most of us here.’’

Hous­ing New Zealand ten­ants pre­vi­ously had se­cu­rity of ten­ure no mat­ter what they earned, al­though their rent was al­tered if their in­come in­creased.

Only the 10,000 ten­ants who moved into state hous­ing af­ter July 1, 2011, were able to have their te­nan­cies re­viewed if their cir­cum­stances changed.

Hous­ing ad­vo­cate Sue Henry says the pass­ing of the bill will come as a shock to many.

She has ten­ants from all over Auck­land com­ing to her for help with hous­ing prob­lems, she says.

‘‘What a Christ­mas present for ten­ants. In Auck­land there’s a mas­sive amount of peo­ple rent­ing off Hous­ing New Zealand and no-one’s been told. It’s just go­ing to send peo­ple into a panic.’’

The bill will en­able pri­vate so­cial hous­ing providers such as the Sal­va­tion Army to re­ceive the same rent sub­sidy as Hous­ing New Zealand, al­low­ing ten­ants to pay an in­come-re­lated rent.

Hous­ing Min­is­ter Nick Smith says there are 4000 ten­ants in state hous­ing who can af­ford to pay mar­ket rent.

The re­view­able te­nan­cies will re­move ten­ants’ abil­ity to stay in a state house for life, he says.

Mr Smith cites the ex­am­ple of a Nelson fish­ing boat cap­tain who once had high needs but is now earn­ing $100,000 and still lives in a state home. The ten­ancy could not been re­viewed un­der the old leg­is­la­tion.

Maun­gakiekie MP Sam Lotu-Iiga sup­ports the pass­ing of the bill be­cause it will give strug­gling fam­i­lies a bet­ter chance at get­ting hous­ing.

‘‘It is un­ac­cept­able that Hous­ing New Zealand has more than 4000 ten­ants whose in­comes are high enough to pay a mar­ket rent mean­while we have the same num­ber of high needs fam­i­lies on a wait­ing list un­able to get hous­ing.’’

Photo: LAU­REN PRIESTLEY

Bad move: Sue Wil­liams and Pauline Johns love their pensioner flats in Grey Lynn.

Photo: SAM DUFF

Ten­ancy trou­bles: Hous­ing Min­is­ter Nick Smith says there are 4000 Hous­ing New Zealand ten­ants who can af­ford to pay mar­ket rent.

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