Rent boosts blamed for rising homelessness

Rent boosts blamed for rising homelessness

An Auckland advocacy group for the poor says it is dealing with an increasing number of Housing New Zealand tenants being evicted into homelessness.

But the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) says Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) has been making "broad, uninformed claims without understanding the facts in each case and getting it wrong".

A family of eight Newshub spoke to fell $3000 behind in their rent after Housing NZ put their rent up several hundred dollars.

For 12 years Emma* has paid between $100 and $200 a week in rent for a Housing NZ home. She lives in a four-bedroom house with her partner and six children.

Lately they'd been paying $124 a week, but recently it jumped to a market rent of $525.

"[We're] angry, worried, confused," Emma says. "Somebody needs to sort something out."

The family says its income hasn't changed and that it provided MSD with all the income-related paperwork it needed.

But the ministry says their rent was only increased after the family failed to supply proof of their real incomes. The first letter was sent in November, a second in April and a third in May. They have also had "at least three telephone conversations" with the family.

"To date we have received only incomplete, unverifiable and often contradictory information," says MSD social housing deputy chief executive Carl Crafar.

"In this case the family has had plenty of time to get this sorted -- and we would much prefer to be working with people before their situation becomes desperate."

AAAP says it is seeing an increasing number of cases like Emma's.

"This is an ongoing situation," says AAAP's Alastair Russell.

"I dealt with another woman on Friday who had a seven-month-old baby and Housing NZ were going to evict today, if we hadn't resolved that matter on Friday."

Mr Russell is accusing the Government of being more interested in making a profit than helping people.

"[It's] a clear impetus from the Government for Housing NZ to maximise the rental return that it gets, and it's doing it by any means necessary."

Mr Russell says families like Emma's are the ones who can end up living in cars and sleeping at marae.

"There's nowhere we can go like family-wise, to keep us such a big family together," Emma says.

*Names have been changed to protect their privacy.