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Community Organisations Call On Government To Protect Renters During COVID-19

Today an open letter was released calling on the government to take further action to protect renters during the COVID-19 crisis. Over 10 different community and member organisations signed the letter, including tenant advocacy groups, the Council of Trade Unions, and the Public Health Assocation of New Zealand.

The letter says that the government has taken “some positive steps” to protect tenants, but has “much further to go” towards realising housing as a human right both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

It describes how “tenants are struggling to make ends meet, struggling to find alternative housing, and are scared of what the future may hold for them over the coming months.”

Tofilau Pereira, National President of PACIFICA INC., emphasised that “more than 50 percent of Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Pacific residents and citizens live in rental housing,” and called on the government to “act urgently.”

Manawatu Tenants’ Union Coordinator Ben Schmidt said “No-one should have to fear losing their home during this crisis. We work with boarders living in fear that they may be evicted at any time during this crisis with no legal protection. Many emergency housing residents are required to pay back the costs of their accomodation despite the crisis. Tenants in hardship are facing the prospect of being crippled by rent arrears debt after COVID-19.”

The letter calls for changes including restricting rents to a ‘living rent’ to ensure that tenants would not have to pay over 30% of their income on rent, limiting COVID-19 related rent arrears, making all emergency housing grants non-recoverable, and giving tenancy rights to boarders and flatmates.

Auckland Tenants Protection Association Chairperson Peter Klein wrote “tenants throughout New Zealand are amongst the most vulnerable members of society during this time of extreme health crisis and in need of all protections that can be legislated in order to safeguard their health and right to ongoing safe and secure housing.”

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