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