Saturday, July 20, 2024

Minister issues new expectations for public housing tenancy

Kāinga Ora – Homes & Communities has been instructed to end the Sustaining Tenancies Framework and take stronger measures against persistent antisocial behaviour by tenants, Housing Minister, Chris Bishop announced today.

“Earlier today Finance Minister Nicola Willis and I sent an interim Letter of Expectations to the Board of Kāinga Ora. The letter lays out a series of core functions that we expect Kāinga Ora to focus on,” the Minister said.

He said the agency’s core functions are:

  • Strengthening the management of disruptive tenants;
  • Addressing a concerning escalation in rental arrears;
  • Tenanting vacant properties as quickly as possible;
  • Delivering new social housing places in line with targets;
  • Delivering value for money in its spending and delivering savings as required.

“As part of Kāinga Ora’s focus on core functions we expect them to end their Sustaining Tenancies Framework, which has allowed tenants to stay living in a KO home no matter how threatening or disruptive their behaviour, or how much damage they cause to the property,” said Mr Bishop.

“Sustaining Tenancies has had exactly the effect you’d expect: there is no incentive for tenants to improve their anti-social behaviour or to stop deliberately damaging their taxpayer-owned house. There are hundreds of serious complaints every month – the most recent stat has been 335 serious complaints per month – of things like intimidation, harassment, threatening behaviour and worse. 

“And yet, in all of 2023 only three tenancies ended due to ‘disruptive behaviour’. 

“New Zealanders are sick of hearing about terrifying and heartbreaking stories from neighbours of abusive and antisocial Kāinga Ora tenants. It’s completely unacceptable that people should have to live in fear.”

Neighbours of Kāinga Ora residents, who are frequently Kāinga Ora residents themselves, are tired of having to put up with Kāinga Ora tenants who abuse the privilege of a taxpayer-funded home, said Mr Bishop.

“At a time when there are over 25,000 people on the social housing wait list, Kāinga Ora should not be prioritising tenants who abuse their home or their neighbours above families who are anxiously waiting for a home.”

“I want to emphasise that this framework change won’t have any impact on the majority of Kāinga Ora tenants who already do the right thing.

“Removing the Sustaining Tenancies Framework gives effect to a commitment made in the National-ACT coalition agreement.

“The Government also expects the Board to focus on rental arrears accrued by tenants. 

“Between 2017 and 2023, the total debt owed to Kāinga Ora by its tenants increased from $1 million to $21 million, and the number of tenants owing rent nearly doubled from 4,248 to 9,519. At the end of last year, more than 450 Kāinga Ora tenants each owed more than $10,000 in rent.

“Frankly, this isn’t in anyone’s best interests – not taxpayers, and not the tenants themselves – so Kāinga Ora needs to address the current rental arrears issues and prevent future arrears from escalating.

“We are also concerned about the loss of social licence for social housing in communities, often because communities feel that social housing developments happen without genuine engagement. Kāinga Ora has therefore been instructed to do more to genuinely engage with local communities about their development plans and activities, beyond their existing legal requirements.

“We have sent this interim Letter of Expectations to make sure that Kāinga Ora is focused on the right things, right now. We intend to issue an updated Letter of Expectations later this year in response to the independent review led by Sir Bill English, which will be reporting to Ministers soon,” he said.

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