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The Invercargill City Council has consulted tenants, as well as agencies, on proposed increases to housing rental fees and received 25 formal submissions in total — 56% in opposition, 40% in support and 4% that did not support or oppose.
As the Otago Daily Times reported, the proposal was to hike rent by 35% for its 215 units used to house elderly people on limited incomes.
The council’s explanation was the increase was to cover the cost of healthy homes standards and to enable increased investment in housing stock requiring improvement, including installation of heat pumps in the units.
A report from council strategy and policy manager Rhiannon Sutter will be presented to the infrastructural services committee next week and six submitters will speak to councillors about the matter.
Ms Sutter said a further nine tenants shared their views with the housing officer over the phone but did not wish to make a submission.
"Seven were in support, one was opposed and one did not specify."
From the 25 formal submissions, 23 were from tenants and two were from organisations with an interest in housing — Presbyterian Support Southland (PSS) and the Southland Beneficiaries and Community Rights Centre (SBCRC).
The SBCRC criticised the council’s communication of the issue with its tenants, saying it was insensitive "to put it mildly" as the community housing tenants were either elderly, disabled or both.
It said a request for an extension of the consultation period was refused and a meeting between tenants and council staff "did not go well".
"[It] left the tenants feeling even more upset and oppressed than before."
A tenant, who was not named, submitted he received $346.91 from government super fortnightly, so with a rent of $124 a week, only $50 a week would be left for all needs.
PSS chief executive officer Michael Parker said the use of existing social housing rental income as a mechanism to fund new housing was not a sustainable model.
Mr Parker also said the additional cost in rent would mean tenants would not be able to afford power costs to heat their units.
Another supported the increase, but believed a 10% increase over the next three years would be more appropriate.
The council will consider the submissions and make a decision on the matter on March 2.