'Already a struggle': 35% rent rise plan opposed

Bontetaake Kaiteie and Makalita Maka went to an Invercargill council meeting yesterday to oppose...
Bontetaake Kaiteie and Makalita Maka went to an Invercargill council meeting yesterday to oppose its decision to increase the rents of council units. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO
An Invercargill pensioner says she is very stressed because a proposed 35% rent increase for her council unit would exacerbate financial pressure.

Bontetaake Kaiteie (73) said she was already worried about money, and the proposed hike in the rent of her one-bedroom unit at Princess St would compromise her ability to afford the house.

She was among six people who asked to speak to their submissions on the proposed increase at Invercargill City Council’s infrastructural services committee meeting yesterday.

The proposed rental hike for the 215 units, was to cover the cost of healthy home standards and to enable increased investment in housing stock which required improvement, including the installation of heat pumps in the units.

Council had received 25 formal submissions in total — 56% in opposition, 40% in support.

Makalita Maka, who spoke to councillors on Ms Kaiteie’s behalf, said the suggested Work and Income New Zealand (Winz) accommodation supplement, which council was encouraging its tenants to apply for, would not help the majority of tenants.

She asked Ms Kaiteie to ring Work and Income New Zealand, who told her she was paying less rent than the threshold.

"Anybody who is paying less than $155 [for rent] will not get the supplement," Ms Maka said.

"She feels that from the increase, she would pay $76 more [for her rent] ... and it has already been a struggle for her."

Another submitter, Jin Gleadall (84) asked her friend Virginia Wilson to speak on her behalf as she did not speak English very well.

Ms Wilson said Ms Gleadall received $347.91 a week from her superannuation.

She spent $113 a week on rent plus $100 for food, $15 for phone and about $30 a week to visit her husband who was at Clare House’s dementia unit.

"She is left currently with $89.91 to pay her power, to pay any medical costs ...

"She is in a position that she is actually afraid to use her power. She is afraid to use her heater and she turns her lights off early in the evening."

Murphy St unit resident Christine Te Moanaui said she was "shocked and horrified" when she received the letter from council about the proposed hike.

For her it was a "heck of an increase".

Councillor Nobby Clark and Nigel Skelt asked her if council staggered the increase, would it be better for tenants?

Ms Te Moanaui agreed that would be less drastic.

Southland Beneficiaries and Community Rights Centre spokesman Michael Gibston highlighted Invercargill City Council was not a registered community housing provider and suggested it become one, giving examples of other local bodies, including Wellington City Council. He said this would enable council to receive subsidies from central government.

Chairman Ian Pottinger said council would consider the submissions and would make a decision on the matter at the next infrastructural services committee meeting on March 2.


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