Review affects the most vulnerable
State houses are no longer homes for life. That’s true even for the most vulnerable tenants.
A decision has been made to include pensioners and people with disabilities in the upcoming tenancy reviews that aim to move an expected 3000 people into private rental properties by 2017.
Tenancy reviews are among the Housing New Zealand (HNZ) services being taken over by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) as of April 14.
Reviews begin on July 1 and the first batch includes 27 tenants who receive a benefit for illness or disability and more than 140 tenants over the age of 65.
Pensioners say the impending reviews are stressful.
One 78-year-old Freemans Bay tenant, who asked not to be named, says her neighbours thought they were moving into their city-fringe complex for life.
She has lived at the Ryle St flats for 15 years.
‘‘I’m a pensioner and these units are all supposed to be for pensioners. I understood we would be here until we died. At our age you want security, and you need it too.’’
Most of the pensioners just want to know whether they will be able to stay put, she says.
She is worried HNZ will sell the pensioner complex because of its prime location.
‘‘It’s not straight-forward. If only they would just be honest and put us in the picture instead of having this uncertainty hanging over our heads.’’
One Grey Lynn pensioner says it is difficult to tell how strongly the policy will affect him and his neighbours. He was told tenants will know more after April 14.
‘‘People think you get in here and have a good restful time, but you’re consistently interrupted. HNZ are always inspecting or changing things up.
‘‘We don’t know what will happen yet. It’s unsettling.’’
Glen Innes Housing Trust coordinator Peter Wilson says elderly tenants are too afraid to speak out.
One of his clients is a retired Pt England man who is worried about the change.
He says housing is becoming an urgent election issue and politicians need to start looking at providing options for the elderly.
‘‘The elderly are feeling vulnerable already. Naming them may have adverse effects on their already uncertain housing situation,’’ Wilson says.
‘‘It’s not just the elderly and retirees who are panicking about housing changes. Everyone, including the long-term sick, are affected.’’
Tamaki Housing Group member Sue Henry says she has people coming to the group for help from all over Auckland.
‘‘They’re so scared to do anything about it in case it makes things worse. People need to leave the elderly alone.’’
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the review process will be carried out on a case-bycase basis.
The ministry thought ‘‘long and hard’’ about excluding the elderly and people with disabilities from the review but decided not to because those people’s needs can change too, she says.
The idea is to make sure the people that most need social housing are able to get it, Bennett says.
‘‘No disabled or elderly people will be asked to leave social housing and obtain private housing in 2014 unless they are actively willing to do so.
‘‘HNZ tenants have nothing to fear with reviewable tenancies and people need to remember that reviewing a person’s tenancy does not mean they will be evicted.’’
Change coming: Tenants are bracing themselves for the upcoming state housing reviews.