More than one in five of the first 780 state house tenants
facing possible eviction under a new government policy will
be elderly or disabled.
A paper taken to Cabinet last month by Housing Minister Nick
Smith and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett reveals
that the two ministers have decided not to exempt the elderly
and disabled from the new policy of reviewing all state house
tenancies, ending the previous policy that a state house was
"a home for life".
The full paper, placed on the Social Development Ministry
website at midday yesterday, included a detailed breakdown
showing that 20 per cent of the first batch of tenants to be
reviewed would be 65 or over and 27 others would be
"permanently and severely disabled".
The paper was later removed and an edited version was posted
later yesterday with the breakdown of affected tenants
The controversial policy is intended to "shift expectations
away from social housing for life to social housing for the
duration of housing need". It takes effect after the Social
Development Ministry takes over allocating social housing
from Housing NZ on April 14, and the first affected tenants
will be notified before the end of next month.
As expected, the ministry has been told to start by reviewing
780 of the 5447 state tenants who are already paying within
$50 a week of the estimated market rent for their homes.
The other 63,187 Housing NZ tenants pay rents fixed at 25 per
cent of their incomes. They now appear unlikely to be
affected by reviews because ministers have decided against
putting all tenants on fixed three-year tenancies, instead
targeting those who can afford to move into private housing
because they are already at or near market rents.
Legislation passed last year allowed ministers to exempt
vulnerable groups from reviews, and Dr Smith said in November
that those could include "vulnerable elderly or disabled
But Ms Bennett said yesterday that Cabinet had decided "not
to formally exclude any groups of people from reviewable
"We want to learn more about people's circumstances through
the process before we make any final decisions about what
groups should be formally excluded from consideration," she
"The review ensures that elderly and disabled tenants are in
the right housing for them. This includes being able to
re-allocate these people to more appropriate social housing.
"A common sense approach sensitive to the needs of these
tenants will be taken. Unless there is more appropriate
social housing for disabled or elderly people, the review
process will be fast tracked. No disabled or elderly people
will be asked to quit state housing and obtain private
housing in the coming year unless they are actively willing
to do so."
However the Cabinet paper outlines a process of "active
engagement"with affected tenants to help them find a new
home, which is expected to take "at least six months"- but
with a 90-day eviction notice for tenants who are judged not
to need social housing and have not moved out.
"The process needs to be backed up by the ability for
providers to terminate a tenancy if [the ministry] determines
that the household could clearly sustain private housing, but
refuses to take steps to do so," it says.
"This is a last resort, and no households would receive
notice to end a tenancy without significant engagement and
support to find alternative housing."
Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said he wanted "a
cast-iron guarantee from the ministers that they will protect
the elderly and disabled and families with children".
- By Simon Collins of the New Zealand Herald