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Boarding Houses Below Board

Boarding Houses Below Board

Thursday 4 August

The Social Services Select Committee heard submissions on the inquiry into boarding houses yesterday. Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) addressed the hearing, and urges the inquiry to implement changes to boarding house conditions.

“There needs to be a radical improvement in the standard of many boarding houses and in monitoring to ensure standards are maintained. Existing legislation does little to protect vulnerable tenants, and they lack the same rights and protection that are standard in other types of tenancies”, says Stephanie McIntyre, director of DCM.

Currently, there is no registration process and no routine inspection of premises. A further concern for DCM is that boarding house residents may not report poor living conditions in boarding houses for several reasons. They may not know their legal rights, or who to make a complaint to, and face a legitimate fear of being evicted if they speak out.

“There is an ongoing crisis of affordable accommodation in Wellington, particularly for single adults, which means boarding houses remain a vital accommodation option. DCM urges the inquiry to look at providing protection for tenants by requiring an improvement in the standard of many boarding houses. Currently, some tenants are living in a situation where they can’t even lock their rooms, making them feel unsafe and increasingly vulnerable,” says Stephanie.

In 2009, Labour’s housing spokesperson, Moana Mackey visited several Wellington boarding houses along with Wellington Central MP Grant Roberston, and members of the Coalition to End Homelessness.

“The conditions were appalling. In one case the property didn’t even have running water. But these are not tenants who are about to rock the boat by complaining and unfortunately some boarding house landlords have been taking advantage of that,” says Moana.

“I hope this inquiry allows us to better understand the boarding house sector from the professional and responsible providers through to the slum landlords, and informs government as to what needs to change in order to protect vulnerable boarding house tenants from exploitation,” she says.

From January to March 2011, 35% (or 56 people) of all DCM service users who are considered homeless lived in boarding houses. People residing in boarding houses are considered homeless by the NZ definition of homelessness.


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