The consequences of reviewable tenancies

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.

4 Comments Posted

  1. The cost of housing (mortgages and private rentals) relative to incomes at or below the median levels is getting more and more unaffordable without state assistance (the Accommodation Supplement, aka the landlord’s subsidy).
    The state has recognised this through the provision of HNZ houses and in the past assistance to first home buyers. The current government is under-investing in state housing as can be seen from the growing waiting lists (and purging of the list to those not “high-priority”).
    Once housed by HNZ the rents are income related…. and if people begin to earn higher incomes the percentage becomes 50% of the income above a set amount. The rents become an incentive to more!
    The annual reviewable tenancies is simply a bureaucratic nightmare, forcing contact between tenants and the landlord’s agent (Wk&Income)…. This is something most on low incomes/benefits prefer to avoid.
    The policy will cause churn in tenancies; seemingly have a “postive” impact on the waiting list as new tenants replace former ones, but in reality do nothing to assist those with housing needs and low to moderate incomes.

  2. “Secure, safe housing is a basic right”.

    You lost my support in the last paragraph with this statement.

    This is about a right to housing. It is a universal right and without reviewable state tenancies, there will be others who are denied that right. The right to housing does not, and must not, require that the tax payer provides housing for all.

    This is not about a right to avoid the stress of moving house, or having to find more money for paying private rents nor is it a right to avoid risks to a child’s education.

    I agree that in New Zealand, the inability to obtain decent, affordable housing is one of the major barriers to an adequate standard of living. State housing is a bandaid to this malady and that is something our society needs to have available. But bandaids are a temporary treatment – there will always be a need for some bandaids to help people on their way.

    To me, the Home For Life package lacks clarity in its objectives. It goes way beyond being a bandaid but stops well short of developing a cure to our standard of living malady.

  3. Arriving here in 1953 I thought the state houses which had been built were great. However, I thought they should really be a temporary place for young couples to live until they got their own house. Now I discover that some families occupied the same house for fifty years. Often the last occupant is MUM now in her sevnties.
    Surely when a young couple rented a state house a certain amount of their rent should have been set aside by the Dept. In time this would accrue and give them a deposit to put down on their own house. These were my thoughts in that long ago time when there was work for all and 3% loans for exservice men.

    But it did not happen, folk stayed where they were. Sad really.
    Now the deposit to begin buying a home is so high that youngsters, often already burdened with university fees which must be repaid, can no longer save enough for a deposit.

    To give people no security at all when they finally rent a state house means that more and more children are going to grow up in an insecure environment, possibly moving from school to school and never really settling down to learning or to making social contacts.

    If only this government would realise the only treasure this country has is her childen. Dig away our national parks for oil and gas, tear up our sea beds, but these are all things which will eventually run out. If we are to survive as a nation it is our children we should be looking after, and this means giving them a secure home in which to live.

  4. So we should build houses until there are no more people wanting them. I for one would happily cash in my property and live in a low rent government provided home, just point me in the right direction.

    Seriously though. The purpose of state housing is not to provide a home for life, but to provide secure safe housing for people who cannot afford to house themselves through conventional means. I am particularly disturbed when I see an urban state house with three of four ‘newish’ cars regularly parked outside, a sky arial, and big-screen TV on show through a window. When there are people who don’t have a place to sleep because of poverty, these affluent state-house livers should be moved on to make way for those in need.

    The answer to every challenge in peoples’ lives should not be for the government to spend money taking away the problem. This approach will eventually result in the 95% tax rates that drove earners and job creators out of the United Kingdom in the ’60s and ’70s (many of them to NZ). The solution is to help people at the bottom of the social strata move upward, and get them into self-sufficiency as quickly as possible, making room for the new ‘bottom dwellers’ to receive help and sustanance from the rest of us.

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