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Housing Minister must come clean on changes

Housing Spokesperson

Housing Minister must come clean on changes

Housing Minister Phil Heatley needs to come clean about the major restructuring at Housing New Zealand and what these changes will mean for tenants, staff and communities, says Labour’s Housing Spokesperson Moana Mackey.

“The Minister needs to put an end to the speculation which is extremely destabilising for communities and causing major distress for staff and tenants alike.

“We already know that Housing New Zealand Neighbourhood Units will be closed or significantly downgraded and that some staff will be co-located to Work and Income offices. Other areas will have a “mobile” tenancy manager working from their car. This is yet another broken promise from a Government that pledged not to cut any frontline services.

“The Minister needs to come clean with those communities who are going to lose their services.

“It’s also clear that Housing New Zealand tenancy managers will no longer be part of the needs assessment process and will no longer have a dedicated and manageable portfolio of tenants to work with.

“This is reinforced by the recent decision by Housing New Zealand in Gisborne to no longer distribute council rubbish stickers to their tenants on the basis that they are now only allowed to focus on “the tenancy and asset management aspects of their business”. The decision was hastily reversed when it hit the media.”

Ms Mackey said that Mr Heatley clearly had no understanding of the day to day reality for Housing New Zealand tenancy managers and their clients.

“The relationship between a Housing New Zealand tenancy manager and tenant is crucially important. Often Housing New Zealand are dealing with people who have had trouble sustaining tenancies for a broad variety of reasons from serious mental health issues to homelessness.

“Housing New Zealand provides these families with an opportunity to access stable and affordable accommodation – something they may struggle to do in the private sector. This is the crucial role that social housing plays in New Zealand.

“But the key to that success is the relationship with the tenancy manager and their ability to link the tenant up with the support they need to overcome difficulties that may arise. The best tenancy managers can literally change lives, and I’ve been privileged to work with many of these people over the years.

“Removing this support from tenants will be devastating for some. Whether the Minister likes it or not, Housing New Zealand houses many people with high and complex needs who will always need extra support to sustain their tenancy. These retrograde changes will simply result in more 90 day notices being issued and more evictions. Instead of fixing the problem, the Minister wants to bury his head in the sand and make it someone else’s problem.

“These high needs individuals will not just disappear into the ether because they are evicted by Housing New Zealand. The burden will fall on local councils, churches, social service agencies and emergency accommodation providers to pick up the pieces. The sad thing is that all this could be avoided. Unfortunately the Minister is on an ideological crusade to slash waiting lists, purge the corporation of high needs tenants and turn Housing New Zealand into “just another landlord”.

“The well-being of some of our most vulnerable citizens is unfortunately not a priority for this Government.”


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