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Rent Freeze Must Be Extended For At Least 6 Months: TOP

The rent freeze needs to be extended for at least 6 months, say The Opportunities Party (TOP), who are calling on the government to protect vulnerable renters experiencing financial instability as a result of Covid-19. The current rent freeze ends on the 25th of September.

TOP party leader, Geoff Simmons says that now is absolutely not the time to be easing protections for renter rights.

“We are only just seeing the economic hardship of Covid-19 starting to bite,” says Simmons. “We’ve just officially entered a recession, the GDP has contracted by a record amount, and with the wage subsidy ending, job losses are expected to rise substantially. Now is not the time to expose renters to rent increases.”

Advisory letters were sent to representatives in the property investment industry by the Commerce Commission following the discovery that many investors were online planning massive rent hikes following the end of the rent freeze. Last week, the Commerce Commission chair Anna Rawlings said property investors were at risk of breaching the Commerce Act.

Wellington student trade group on Facebook, Vic Deals, has seen recent posts of many renters saying their landlords are putting their rents up immediately following the lift of the rent freeze. Simmons says that it’s time to start protecting renter rights.

“As the 6-month rent freeze comes to an end, we can expect to see many rent prices increase around the country,” says Simmons. “Renters deserve the same level of security as homeowners, who have until 31 March 2021 to lean on the mortgage holiday schemes in place. We need to extend the rent freeze for at least another 6 months.”

“Students and families alike are struggling through this pandemic, without any of the protections that homeowners have,” says Simmons. “We have an economy that is struggling, jobs that are being lost, and now rent increases? It’s madness. We need to extend the freeze until our economy is more stable. COVID-19 might be under control from a health perspective, but the economic impacts have only just begun.”

Simmons says that renters rights need to be protected beyond the financial implications of the pandemic. His party is proposing bring the security of tenure model to New Zealand and enforcing rent caps.

“Rent prices have been steadily increasing in cities around the country for years now, making it increasingly difficult for people to find affordable housing in centres,” says Simmons. “Capping rent increases absolutely needs to be on the table, especially as homeownership is becoming so expensive and out of the question for those looking to get on the homeownership ladder.”

“TOP will change the regulations around residential tenancy law to make it far easier for tenants to remain at a property long term,” says Simmons. “Landlords will only be able to evict tenants for non-payment of rent or property damage.”

Security of tenure has been enjoyed by many European countries such as Germany and Austria for decades. Simmons says it has the ability to make life-long renting a viable option for Kiwis who would prefer to invest in the active economy, such as businesses.

“Under this model, selling a property will not necessarily be a legitimate reason for eviction,” says Simmons. “This will give tenant families the long-term security previously only enjoyed by homeowners, and massively improve housing as a social good – whether owned-occupied or not.”

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