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Students Suffer As Support Fails to Keep Pace

Students Suffer As Support Fails to Keep Pace With Rent Increases.

12 May 2014

Press Release: New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations

Students are suffering as the support they are entitled to for help with housing costs fails to keep pace with skyrocketing rents, according to research released today by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

NZUSA is calling for the lifting of the restriction that limits the support students can get to keep pace with rising housing costs.

A student allowance includes an element for help with rent, but on a different basis than all other low income New Zealanders. However, housing support for students is capped at a maximum of $40 per week, and has been since 2001. In contrast, the Accommodation Supplement – that everyone who is not a student is entitled to – provides support of up to $145 per week if you live in certain parts of Auckland, and $100 per week if you live in other expensive places such as Wellington or Hamilton.

The accommodation benefit for students is set at 50% of average rental costs in a particular location above $40 per week, with a maximum payment of $40. This has been in place since 2001. This cap was hit in 2003 in Auckland, in 2005 in Wellington and in New Plymouth in 2009. Even in relatively low-cost Dunedin, where rents are below the national average, the cap means that rents have increased but support has not since 2012. In Christchurch the cap was hit in 2008 and as rents have rocketed since the earthquake – now significantly above the national average – support has been stuck at a level of increasing insignificance.

“It’s all very well for Steven Joyce to claim, as he does, that the Student Support System in New Zealand is ‘about right’ but this glaring failure to keep pace with rising costs means that students getting allowances, who by definition cannot get support from their parents, simply cannot afford to study. In Wellington and Auckland in particular, the total student support available – the allowance plus the accommodation benefit – is less than the average rent”, said Daniel Haines, NZUSA President.

“The fact is, every other low-income New Zealander qualifies for rent assistance based on the cost of their rent, students don’t. Where’s the incentive to move from a benefit into study, or from a low-paid job into having a qualification that could potentially move someone out of poverty, if that choice is completely unaffordable”, said Haines.

“Students deserve the same rate of support as everyone else. We should have access to the Accommodation Supplement. At the very least, the cap on the support for rent costs needs to be adjusted upwards to reflect the reality of increasing rents.”

NZUSA’s research is based on comparing WINZ data of accommodation benefit for selected residential areas with the rent per room of a three-bedroom house in an area of town that students live in, using Department of Building and Housing (now part of MBIE) data, as reported on a quarterly basis.
Data on other regions also available.

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