Crack down on state housing applicants

  • 05/11/2015

By Peter Wilson

Paula Bennett is facing scathing criticism from opposition MPs for tightening the rules around state housing.

The social housing minister says some applicants are "unrealistically picky" when they're offered a property, and she's had enough of it.

From January next year they'll be taken off the waiting list for 13 weeks if they turn down a house once "without good and sufficient reason".

Under current rules, they can turn down three houses before action is taken.

Ms Bennett has previously said some people have turned up their noses at state houses because birds were chirping next door or the backyard wasn't big enough for a trampoline.

Labour's Phil Twyford says she's pandering to her right-wing supporters.

"She's throwing red meat to that part of the National Party's voting constituency for whom state house tenants will always be the undeserving poor," he told reporters.

"There's an acute housing shortage, and she picking on a very small problem that casts state house tenants in the most unflattering light."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says Ms Bennett has built a career on blaming poor people for the government's failures.

"This new policy will see families with sick kids, the elderly, disabled people, or those concerned about the safety of living in neglected state hbomes kicked off the waiting list," he said.

Ms Bennett denies she's taken a political decision.

"Not at all. We've been really clear there are good reasons for declining a house and I've made sure the numbers are out there," she said.

"We've got desperate people on the waiting list and we want to house them as quickly as we can - if people don't have a good reason (for turning down a house) it holds up those who really need them."

Another change is that applicants will have to name a minimum of three suburbs they want to live in, rather than one.

Ms Bennett says nearly 10,000 social housing offers were made last year and of those 3453 were declined - with 414 people giving "unacceptable reasons" such as wanting a garage or a bigger backyard.

She says every case will be assessed on its merits.

"Most people who decline a house have a good reason for doing so such as health, safety or security concerns," she said.