Housing payment system needs overhaul - Labour

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 16/07/2012
Annette King
Michelle Cooke
CALL FOR OVERHAUL: Annette King said the supplement supported people in rental accommodation but a lot of the houses were "incredibly poor quality".

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Labour is urging a "hard look" at the accommodation supplement, amid claims landlords are pocketing a $1.2b "subsidy" despite providing substandard housing.

Housing spokeswoman Annette King said the Salvation Army had warned in the 1990s that the supplement to support low-income people would turn in to a subsidy for landlords - and that had happened.

"It is a major subsidy for landlords but it hasn't produced better housing or more access to housing or an ability for people to buy housing," Ms King said.

"If we just let it keep growing year after year as more and more people struggle to pay rent, then we are doing nothing in terms of changing the ability to house people and it's time that we had a highly focused look at how do you turn that into something that is a whole lot better."

The supplement is paid in addition to other welfare payments at varying rates, depending on circumstances. It is meant to help cover rent, board or home ownership costs.

In 2007, the Government paid $877m through the supplement, but it is expected to top $1.2b this year.

Ms King said the supplement supported people in rental accommodation but a lot of the houses were "incredibly poor quality".

"Some of it is absolutely appalling housing and landlords take whatever the accommodation supplement is and add it to their rent," she said.

"I think we need to take a hard look at how we could turn some of that accommodation supplement into providing affordable, decent, warm housing and how we could turn some of it into people being able to own their own housing."

She did not know exactly how that might work but said it should be discussed.

"There has got to be a way of a subsidy that is given to a landlord being more appropriate to use for the tenant to be able to look at different housing options."

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- The Dominion Post

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