Problem tenants might stay, neighbours moved: HNZ boss

Housing NZ chief executive Andrew McKenzie. Photo: NZ Herald
Housing NZ chief executive Andrew McKenzie. Photo: NZ Herald

Housing New Zealand would consider leaving anti-social tenants in properties and moving neighbours away to solve community problems, its chief executive says.

Andrew McKenzie, HNZ's chief executive, appeared with Housing Minister Phil Twyford at a select committee this morning.

Twyford was asked by National's housing spokeswoman Judith Collins whether a Housing New Zealand tenant living next door to another HNZ tenant involved in anti-social behaviour could ask for that tenant to be moved.

She was responding to HNZ's recent easing of rules around tenancies, which include tenants being referred to addiction services and other agencies for illicit drug use and being allowed to keep pets, which was forbidden under its previous policies.

"If a particular tenant is living next door to a gang involved in anti-social behaviour including with dog-fighting, screaming, shouting, abuse, threats, will that tenant be able to come to their local MP or Housing New Zealand and ask for the neighbour to be evicted now and if so, will that be listened to," Collins asked.

Twyford said HNZ had an obligation to be a good neighbour.

"Anti-social behaviour should not be tolerated in Housing New Zealand tenants, or in any tenants or in any neighbours."

Landlords, including HNZ, should have a better ability to get rid of anti-social tenants, he said.

Asked where they would go if they were evicted, Twyford said: "Well they'll have to go somewhere. That's why Housing New Zealand's policy tries to strike a balance between responsibility and being a good neighbour and sustaining tenancies.

"No one is suggesting that's an easy tension to manage."

McKenzie said HNZ worked with other agencies to manage the issues and work with tenants to work on their behaviour.

"If we were to not allow them to live in one of our homes, where would they live? It's a hell of a lot more expensive for the government to put them into insecure accommodation.

"Our objective is to keep them in the house. That what we want to do. We absolutely acknowledge that if we were to move them out and put them somewhere else we're simply transferring the problem unless you address the fundamental issue."

He said neighbours had been moved in the past.

"If the neighbour does need to shift, we have done that in the past, if that's the appropriate action."

He added that any illegal activity would be referred to police.

Last week McKenzie said HNZ had a new policy in which it would tolerate illegal drug use in its properties and referring tenants to addiction services and other agencies to help them get their lives back on track.

He said that where illegal drug use took place in its properties, the tenants would not be evicted or referred to police, HNZ would instead help them to access the help they needed.

"At the end of last year we've moved to a no-eviction policy. The circumstances in which we will tell people they can't live in a house are very rare."

Twyford said today the vast majority of state house tenants were good, hard-working, responsible people.

"I do not like seeing state housing tenants demonised or caricatured as being bad people, or dysfunctional or violent people."

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