Kāinga Ora says other agencies discourage them from evicting misbehaving tenants

Kāinga Ora's chief executive says it's a tough balancing act looking after tenants and nearby residents.
Kāinga Ora's chief executive says it's a tough balancing act looking after tenants and nearby residents. Photo credit: RNZ

Anneke Smith for RNZ 

The state landlord says it's been warned by other agencies that evicting disruptive tenants would make their work with them "a waste of time".

Kāinga Ora fronted the Social Services and Community Select Committee this morning, where it defended its track record on dealing with its worst tenants.

The agency has started the year with a new complaints scheme that should fast track the process to remove disruptive tenants.

It comes after a group of terrorised neighbours shared their stories last year and Associate Minister for Housing Poto Williams stepped in.

Kāinga Ora's chief executive Andrew McKenzie told today's select committee the agency's 'sustaining tenancies' policy means all options, including cross-agency support, is explored before a tenant is moved on.

He said through doing this work other agencies such as the police, Corrections, Oranga Tamariki, the education system and mental health and addiction services in DHBs all say the same thing.

"They've all said to us '[if] you make them homeless our chances of impacting positively on those people and dealing with the issues goes down dramatically'.

"The addiction people said, 'just forget about it; if you make them homeless, it's a waste of our time dealing with that person'."

National's Nicola Willis used her questions to push Kāinga Ora on its legal obligations to other tenants, set out in the Residential Tenancies Act.

The Tenancy Tribunal has found Kainga Ora in breach of these obligations over the years and ordered it to pay out thousands of taxpayer dollars to compensate terrorised neighbours.

The chair of Kāinga Ora's board, Vui Mark Gosche, said it's a tough balancing act looking after tenants and the community around them.

He said the state landlord doesn't always get it right but has to explore all available wraparound supports before relocation or eviction.

"The dilemma that we face as an organisation is not an easy one and we fully accept the point that the community around disruptive people has to be looked after.

"So that's where we work with other government agencies, where we put the wraparound services in place but if in the end that doesn't work then people will be moved out."

Gosche added that evictions, of which there have been none in the last three years, were a last resort for the state landlord for good reason.

"We are dealing with people who no one else will house...and we've seen the results of mass homelessness in New Zealand. We don't want to return there.

"So these are difficult things that Parliament needs to consider. It's simple to throw it back on us and say: 'it's all your fault'."

The Minister responsible for Kāinga Ora Poto Williams was not aware the agency had told the select committee other agencies had warned against evicting its tenants.