Govt 'vilifies' social housing tenants in new initiative, poverty advocates say

Author
Alicia Burrow,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Feb 2017, 5:16AM
Auckland Action Against Poverty's slamming a new social housing initiative aimed to keep tenants in houses for longer (Getty Images).
Auckland Action Against Poverty's slamming a new social housing initiative aimed to keep tenants in houses for longer (Getty Images).

Govt 'vilifies' social housing tenants in new initiative, poverty advocates say

Author
Alicia Burrow,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Feb 2017, 5:16AM

Auckland Action Against Poverty is slamming a new social housing initiative aimed to keep tenants in houses for longer.

The Government's new Sustainable Tenancies Initiative will work with tenants who are at risk of losing their Housing New Zealand home due to financial mis-management, or anti-social behaviour.

Three providers are already underway with the pilot; Affinity Services in Auckland, Downtown Community Ministry in Wellington and Comcare Trust in Christchurch.

Social housing Minister Amy Adams said it's about looking after those at risk, which is a better outcome for both the tenant, taxpayers and the wider system.

She said it's different to anything done before because it's a targeted provision of support services.

"If we can address the issues, not only do they maintain their tenancy, it helps them go on to lead more full lives, and stop them from losing their house and still be in need of other housing support. So it's win-win."

But AAAP coordinator Vanessa Cole said the government continues to frame social issues as being caused by people, rather than the Government.

Ms Cole said it vilifies social housing tenants and assumes evictions are about personal and individual behaviour when it's really about a lack of rights, and security for tenants.

"Housing New Zealand tenants are getting evicted for many reasons, yet the Government frame it as people being evicted because of anti social behaviour, but they're mainly being evicted because of the Government's policy shifts around social housing."

She said social housing reforms since 2013 - such as the removal of the Homes for Life policy, the transfer of state houses into community housing providers, the redevelopment of state housing areas and a different reviewing process of tenants - have only amplified the housing crisis especially for those who are struggling most.

"A lot of families who're seen to be earning too much can no longer afford private rental properties and we've seen a massive homelessness crisis."

When the initiative is fully up and running, eight community providers will have $5 million in funding to work with around 1000 social housing tenants considered to be vulnerable.