Opinion: proposed tenancy changes bad news for city

As the temperatures start to plummet and the days get shorter and darker, the need for warm, dry and secure housing becomes even more apparent for many in Dunedin.

While some of us are lucky to own our own homes, an increasing number of residents are either renting, or struggling to find accommodation.

That’s why last week’s announcement by the National government’s proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act is bad news for those living in or needing rental accommodation.

The proposed changes include reintroducing a 90-day "no cause" termination for periodic tenancies and allows landlords to give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy at the end of the term without a specific reason.

Both of these clauses will make housing less secure for the approximately 30% of Dunedin residents who rent.

A large contingent of these are tertiary students, who regularly secure short-term accommodation in the student quarter.

This move could directly impact students wanting to live and study in Dunedin. It could mean students are kicked out of their flats before the first semester has even ended.

I have already engaged with the Otago University Students’ Association president to oppose these changes.

These announcements also highlight the need for more public housing in Dunedin.

Public housing has always been a key priority for Labour, which is why I am proud to see Dunedin with 79 new public homes built since 2017, and an additional 70 to be delivered within the next six months.

While in government, Labour also invested in our older state homes to make them warm and dry, including a major upgrade of the Maitland St complex.

We need to continue building, and I am concerned the new government’s coalition agreement is silent on the delivery of new homes for vulnerable New Zealanders.

The funding Labour put in place to build new public houses continues until 2025, but any government funding beyond then is uncertain.

Everyone deserves a warm, secure place to call home. To make this a reality, we need to build more houses and provide shelter for those in need.

It’s essential governments work alongside social agencies providing emergency housing and supported accommodation.

I will continue to work with Kāinga Ora, social agencies, and the city council, to advocate for Dunedin’s housing needs.

If you are in need of housing support, please contact my electorate office, who can assist you in getting support.