Social housing reforms fine-tuned by committee

  • Nick Smith

Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith is welcoming the technical amendments recommended at select committee to the Social Housing Reform Bill, which makes fundamental changes to the way the Government delivers housing assistance to those most in need.

“This bill will help grow the provision of community social housing, as well as focusing Housing New Zealand on high needs tenants,” Dr Smith says.

“New Zealand is out of step internationally with less than five per cent of social housing provided by the community sector, compared with nearly 20 per cent in Australia and 60 per cent in the United Kingdom. The Government wants to grow the provision of community social housing, as we recognise its ability to provide wrap-around services to clients and transition people to independence.

“The majority of the changes made by the Social Services Committee are technical in nature. The changes include enabling Ministers to identify people who will not be subject to reviewable tenancies, such as vulnerable elderly and disabled tenants, ensuring housing agencies can share tenancy information, and clarifying the regulatory framework for community social housing providers.”

The Social Housing Reform (Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Amendment) Bill extends the provision of the income-related rent subsidy, currently only available to Housing New Zealand, to approved community social housing providers for new tenants. The bill also creates a level playing field between social housing providers by transferring the housing needs assessment from Housing New Zealand to the Ministry of Social Development, and extends reviewable tenancies to all social housing tenants who receive an income-related rent.

“Reviewable tenancies will be undertaken with common sense and care. Tenants will be given support to move into alternative housing where available and they are in a position to take that step to independence,” Dr Smith says.

“We have more than 4000 state house tenants paying market rents, some of whom are on high incomes. This policy is about freeing up those homes for more needy families. Reviewable tenancies are expected to result in 1000 tenants in 2015/16 and 2000 tenants in 2016/17 being supported into housing independence.

“Reviewable tenancies are expected to cost the Government $46.8 million over two years, as state houses freed up will be provided to higher needs tenants who are eligible for more Government financial support.

“This bill builds on the Government’s $139 million investment to grow the community social housing sector through the Social Housing Fund and Housing New Zealand’s record $2.9 billion three-year investment to ensure its stock is in the right place, is of the right size and is of good quality.”