by Holly Walker
I was pleased to see the impacts of the Social Housing Reform Act being discussed in a Dominion Post op-ed on Thursday by Elinor Chisholm and Philippa Howden-Chapman from the He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme at Otago University.
The Social Housing Reform Act has introduced reviewable tenancies to all state tenants. Chisholm and Howden-Chapman expressed their disappointment that their submission to the Select Committee about excluding families with school age children from tenancy reviews has not been taken into account. Reviewable tenancies put children’s education at risk as it will only increase the already high transience rates for children at our poorest schools. Children do best when they can stay at one school, building strong relationships, rather than being forced to move because of insecure tenancy.
Furthermore, disabled and elderly people will not have their tenancies protected beyond the first year, despite prior Government assurances. Until now state housing has provided the security which is lacking in the private rental market. However, all of these vulnerable tenants will now be faced with uncertainty about the future of their homes. The Government claims these changes are necessary in order to enable the many people on the waiting list for a state house to be accommodated and point out that many people living in state houses already pay market rent.
We think there’s a better way to accommodate those in need and ensure secure housing for those already living in Housing New Zealand homes: build more! The Government should take a lead in increasing the supply of affordable housing that can be used both for social housing, and also to provide families with a pathway into home ownership by giving them the opportunity to purchase equity in a Government-built house over time, as outlined in our Home for Life package
Secure, safe housing is a basic right. By this extension of reviewable tenancies the Government is prioritising our Housing New Zealand properties value as a commercial asset over the welfare of our most vulnerable tenants, children, the disabled and the elderly.