Re­view rocks ten­ants

Central Leader - - NEWS - By LAUREN PRIESTLEY

STATE hous­ing ten­ants wor­ried about the im­pact of a con­tro­ver­sial new hous­ing bill that will put all of their ten­an­cies up for re­view say Hous­ing New Zealand needs to be sen­si­tive as it moves for­ward.

The So­cial Hous­ing Re­form Bill passed last month aims to re­move state ten­ants whose in­comes have in­creased to the point where they could af­ford mar­ket rent. Pre­vi­ously HNZ ten­ants had se­cu­rity of ten­ure no mat­ter what they earned, al­though rents were al­tered if in­comes in­creased.

About 3000 Hous­ing New Zealand ten­ants are ex­pected to be moved into pri­vate rental prop­er­ties by 2017 as a re­sult of the ten­ancy re­views. The homes they free up will go to house peo­ple in greater need.

Mt Roskill mother-of-four Me­gan Mar­shall says she wouldn’t be able to af­ford to study mid­wifery if her fam­ily was pay­ing mar­ket rent.

Her hus­band can’t work full­time be­cause one of their chil­dren is autis­tic and some­times can’t go to school.

‘‘A state house has al­lowed us to bet­ter our sit­u­a­tion but also our chil­dren’s,’’ she says.

‘‘We see it not as some­thing for life but as a step­ping stone.

‘‘We’re ex­tremely grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity. Oth­er­wise I’d be on min­i­mal wage for the rest of my life,’’ she says.

But Hous­ing New Zealand needs to tread care­fully, she says. ‘‘They need to be sen­si­tive. They need to make sure they look af­ter the ones with se­ri­ous need, like the sick and the el­derly. I do worry about them.’’

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

Grey Lynn ten­ant Sue Wil­liams, 62, says the bill 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. 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.’’

Pauline Johns, 71, agrees. ‘‘I’ve been here for about 15 years and I thought I was mov­ing here for life.’’

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.

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.

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.’’

Pho­tos: LAUREN PRIESTLEY

No move: Sue Wil­liams and Pauline Johns love their pen­sioner flats in Grey Lynn.

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