The most complained about Kāinga Ora developments revealed

Documents obtained by Newshub show two of Kāinga Ora's most complained about social housing developments were put on hold after overwhelming public concern.

The fear of living next to unruly neighbours has sparked backlash against several Kāinga Ora developments and the documents show the pushback seems to be effective, because the most complained about developments were put on ice.

Plans to build 37 public homes at Bonair Cres in Auckland were paused mid-last year so Kāinga Ora could "listen and understand the community's aspirations for the area", according to documents provided to Newshub under the Official Information Act.

The documents reveal a total of 55 complaints were made about the development, "primarily related to a lack of community engagement and opposition to public housing being built on the proposed site".

Plans for 68 new public homes on Marlowe Rd and Bolton St in Auckland's Blockhouse Bay were also put on hold, after a total of 37 complaints were made, according to the documents.

Again, "community engagement" was a factor, along with "pressure on infrastructure, and concerns around increased traffic and congestion".

But the complaints primarily related to the "need to retain senior housing at the site", because the land was donated in the 1970s on the condition it provided elderly housing.

According to the documents, Kāinga Ora withdrew its resource consent in August this year and is now reviewing the plans.

The dispute led to a fiery community meeting in April, reminiscent of a Kāinga Ora community engagement event last month that also got heated, over a social housing development under construction near the Auckland Botanic Gardens.

At the time, local resident Glenn Turner had a message for those who might describe him as a NIMBY, an acronym for the phrase "not in my backyard" used to characterise opposition by residents to proposed developments in their local area.

"Those people who would call me a NIMBY, why don't you have a social development next to your house?" Turner said.

Manurewa Local Board deputy chair Matt Winiata wants the development to be aimed at first-home buyers rather than social housing.

"On Friday last week, we sent off an email with a petition outlining the issues that we saw that we were facing in the community with regards to consultation," he told Newshub.

But in Auckland alone, there are more than 8000 individuals or families on the Ministry of Social Development's public housing waiting list.

Auckland Action Against Poverty is urging communities to welcome them.

"Take a moment and think about, if you were in that shoe, what would you do?" asked campaigner Agnes Magele.

"Like, if I was on that end, if I was living in those areas, I would definitely be open to it, to be able to help people in the community."

Kāinga Ora currently has about 600 active building sites across the country to meet the high demand for housing. It also claims the vast majority of Kāinga Ora developments do not attract any complaints.

"In the comparatively small number of cases where we do get complaints, or concerns raised about new public housing developments, residents generally cite traffic impacts, our customers, or our engagement process as the primary source of their concerns," the documents say.

"We look to address the concerns raised where possible."

But living next to unruly neighbours can be "really horrible", said Katelyn Park, who lived next to misbehaved Kāinga Ora tenants for five years.

After complaining to Kāinga Ora several times and posting videos on social media, the tenants were finally moved to a different location, albeit about 500 metres down the road, according to Park.

The ordeal prompted her to start a Facebook group. It now has about 17,000 members who share their stories with her.

She read out this message: "Currently in transitional housing with my six-year-old. I've been here two years, and there are so many abusing this opportunity."

It's because of stories like that, Park thinks there are people far more deserving of Kāinga Ora housing than the tenants she lived next to.

In a statement to Newshub, Nick Maling, Kāinga Ora's general manager, national services, said about 185,000 people live in Kāinga Ora homes around the country and the vast majority of them are good neighbours.

"Nearly 40 percent of the people living in our homes are tamariki or rangatahi. A Kāinga Ora homes gives them a stable base to grow and thrive, instead of having to move from one property and school to another," he said. 

"We receive complaints about less than 10 percent of our households – and the majority of the complaints we do receive are for minor things like car noise, frequency of visitors, or lawns not being mowed. When problems arise, we work hard to resolve them.

"To provide further context on the level of complaints we receive about our customers, in the 14 months to July 2023 less than 3 percent of tenancies received more than one complaint."

He said in the past 12 months, the public housing developer has relocated 210 households for disruptive behaviour by agreement, without having to use any of the tools available under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). 

"In the same period, we have required eight households to relocate under section 53B of the RTA due to disruptive behaviour."

Kāinga Ora has ended seven tenancies to date.