Housing NZ rapped over tenant treatment

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 16:10 22/05/2014

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Housing New Zealand has been ticked off over its failure to adequately consult with state-house tenants affected by major redevelopments.

Tenants affected by the developments in Maraenui in Napier, Pomare in Upper Hutt and Glen Innes in Auckland lodged three petitions with Parliament's social services committee. They were signed by more than 1000 people, voicing their concern about the way they had been treated.

The projects, aimed at improving the quality and suitability of state housing in those deprived areas, affected several hundred tenants who have strongly opposed the projects.

They complained their concerns were not listened to by Housing New Zealand (HNZ) and that the projects were splitting up their communities and adversely affecting their health and wellbeing.

Maraenui tenants also complained about the growing number of vacant state houses - some of them habitable - saying this led to more anti-social behaviour, crime and vandalism.

HNZ had responded by offering those houses to new tenants and reopening their local office.

The committee was "sympathetic to the state-house tenants affected by the corporation's redevelopment projects ... and acknowledge that significant disruption has occurred in these communities".

"We accept that the corporation's initial community consultation processes have been inadequate ... The corporation has given assurances that it has learnt from its mistakes, has established better community consultation processes for these projects, and will apply them in any future redevelopment."

The majority of the committee expressed support for the projects, saying they would improve living conditions.

SIGNIFICANT UPHEAVAL

Labour, the Greens and NZ First members acknowledged the improvements HNZ had made "but we expect the corporation to learn from its mistakes and take a more careful and compassionate approach to communities".

Those members also said tenants affected by developments should be guaranteed a right of return and the numbers of state and social housing units should not be reduced by such projects.

Labour's housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, described the findings as a "rap over the knuckles" for HNZ, saying its approach in evicting large numbers of tenants had been "unnecessarily divisive and disruptive for those communities".

"Urban renewal and redevelopment should strengthen communities - not evict people from their homes and scatter them to the winds."

HNZ chief executive Glen Sowry said the criticism was fair, but said HNZ had since addressed the concerns to ensure residents were better consulted over future projects.

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"We agree it is a significant upheaval for tenants to have to move and we make every effort to relocate tenants to an area of their choice, including in the same suburb," Sowry said.

"We aim to give plenty of notice and work one-on-one with them to talk about options."

To address the criticism HNZ had reopened its office in Maraenui, consulted more widely and met more regularly with a range of stakeholders.

Sowry said HNZ had a responsibility to ensure state houses were fit for purpose and many existing homes needed to be upgraded or redeveloped.

HNZ wanted to ensure new homes were modern, warm and dry.

"Unfortunately this does mean disruption for tenants, and we agree that it's vitally important that we connect with our tenants and our communities carefully and compassionately when we carry out this work."

The vacant houses in Maraenui had been deemed earthquake-prone and could not be used for fear of compromising the safety of their tenants.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira slammed HNZ, saying he was "bloody p..... off".

"The people in GI and in Maraenui and in Pomare that I've spoken to have been saying this for months, I don't know why it took so bloody long for Housing New Zealand to catch on to the fact that they're acting like a pack of a........ and I sincerely hope that any politician who goes and tries to make glory out of these housing redevelopments gets a good kick in the a... and gets sent back and tells Housing New Zealand to get its act together because there's a lot of pain happening."

The consultation was still negligible.

"It's just straight notification," he said.

- Stuff

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