by Jan Logie
Paula Bennett reckons people have enough to live on, and is trucking out averages as if it proves something, but on the ground, it’s not enough. Here’s some of the stories I’m hearing:
A woman moved from out west to South Auckland because she’d found a house that met her needs for $100 less a week. Work and Income cut her temporary assistance and accommodation supplement. This woman had, after going through budgeting advice, $60pw to spend after rent and power.
People are becoming homeless after having their benefit sanctioned. If they can’t get their benefit reinstated so they can pay their rent within three weeks their landowners are entitled to evict them. Even if they don’t they then have a significant debt which makes it harder to keep up their rent payments.
This also now means property managers are increasingly reluctant to rent to people receiving income support as there is no longer even a guarantee of that basic income.
I met a woman who was currently staying with her mother and one other adult and three children in a two bedroom property. That’s 6 people in a 2 bedroom place. She has a reduced benefit already from paying off previous advances for essentials and said Work and Income don’t want to put her further into debt by advancing her money for a bond and rent in advance for a private rental, so she is waiting for a Housing New Zealand property. Housing NZ have her on the waiting list but have not given any indication of how long the wait might be. She is only deemed moderately urgent.
The woman I spoke to was having to go and provide (again) a birth certificate for her 4-year-old. Her childcare subsidy was cut because Work and Income didn’t have the birth certificate on file. This created a further debt, to the kindy, that she will have to try and pay off, again making it harder for her to survive in Auckland with such high rents.
I heard of another woman who, on release from hospital for a mental illness (before she felt ready) was sent to her sister’s and the number of people there was too overwhelming for her so she ending up living in her car until she got sick again and is now in respite care. She has been told she’s not eligible for a Housing NZ property because, despite being so recently released from hospital, she has been put on a jobseeker allowance.
People go to Work and Income with a property that will meet their needs that is within the average price range and they’re told it’s too expensive and Work and Income won’t support them to live there so they have to continue couch surfing and searching, which also costs money.
Shelter is a basic human need and this Government is failing to ensure adequate housing for all.