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Housing NZ Trampling On Privacy Rights

Green MP Sue Bradford said today that she was growing more and more concerned about the privacy rights of Housing NZ tenants after hearing the Minister of Housing's reply to a question she asked in the House.

"It appears that Housing NZ will pass on not only relevant rent-related information to the Department of Work and Income, but also other financial information, marital or partnership status and even the full application form for rent reductions in some cases."

This information has then been used by DWI in some cases to cut special benefits, without a proper review of entitlement to the benefit.

Ms Bradford said a privacy waiver on the income-related rents form gave the departments no excuse to swap information because the waiver was signed without adequate information.

"The waiver is part of the application to have income-related rent assessed - and there is no information on the form which says it does not have to be agreed to. It would take a brave person to stand up and say I'm not going to sign that form which entitles me to a rent reduction, when their accommodation supplement has automatically been stopped."

Ms Bradford said she was extremely concerned that the privacy rights of beneficiaries were being ignored by the two agencies which are supposed help them when they are in a vulnerable and needy situation.

"Staff at Housing NZ need to tell tenants about their privacy rights and that they have the option of refusing to sign the waiver when they apply for their income-related rent reduction."

"There still seems to be an attitudinal hangover from the past that beneficiaries don't have the same basic rights to privacy and dignity as working members of society, which adds to the burden they carry every day."

The Green Party will be asking the Privacy Commissioner to investigate whether Housing NZ has breached the privacy rights of beneficiaries.

Sue will speak further on this issue during the first reading of the Housing Corporation Amendment Bill


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