WINZ gets new list

HOME FRONT: State housing changes will move the Housing NZ waiting list to Work and Income.
HOME FRONT: State housing changes will move the Housing NZ waiting list to Work and Income.

A Labour MP doesn't like it but a Housing New Zealand tenant is more than happy with the next instalment of the Government's state housing changes.

It starts on April 14 and is aimed at keeping all of a client's financial information in one place.

It will be followed by the introduction of new contracts for social housing providers and in July by a change to the way rental contracts are reviewed.

Work and Income will take over the state house waiting list and needs assessments of tenants from Housing New Zealand which will continue to be the landlord.

Tinkering around the edges might be value for money but it won't solve the problem of why state housing is necessary, Mangere MP Su'a William Sio says.

It's important to be careful with taxpayer money but the Government's focus should be on creating jobs, not just shuffling papers between departments, he says.

But Hulita Moimoi, who has lived in an Otara state house with her two children for seven years, has a more positive view.

"It's going to be better with WINZ looking after everything. It means I have fewer forms to fill out.

"They already have all my details so when they do reviews all the information is right there - WINZ and Housing NZ don't have to talk to each other any more."

Moimoi has been on a benefit since 2009 when her contract packing dairy products ended.

"It's good that I can now take my kids to school but I want to get back into work so I have more money to give them a good life," she says.

"When I had a job my rent was $200 a week, now that I'm on a benefit it's $96."

Community housing providers will also be given the opportunity to go into a contract the same as Housing NZ's.

It now sets a tenant's rent at 25 per cent of their income - the difference between what they pay and the market rent is paid to Housing NZ via a Government subsidy.

A community housing provider can now receive funding from the Government but can only charge tenants 80 per cent of the market rate. And it can choose its tenants.

But if it chooses to enter a contract like Housing NZ's it will no longer be able to choose its tenants and will have to take from the top of the waiting list.

Monte Cecilia Trust is one organisation having to weigh up future plans for the 18 houses it owns and the five it manages.

Trust executive David Zussman says it's unlikely all 23 houses will go into a new contract agreement because the regulations are still unknown.

"You have to house the tenants for the duration of their need and you have to take clients from the top of the list," he says.

"Some of the smaller housing providers like us have different reasons for offering housing and different client bases. The new contract type may not work in that case."

From July 1 the Social Development Ministry will take over tenancy reviews.

During the first year it expects to complete 800 reviews on tenants who pay market rent or near-to-market rent and live in an area where other housing is available.

Each review is expected to take six months to complete.

Social Development minister Paula Bennett says one of the government's aims is to make social housing more responsive.

"The ministry may review a tenancy and find there is still a need for a state house. In those cases the tenants remain," she says.

"But with the right support people could move into private rentals or another type of social housing."

Manukau Courier