Tighter social housing policy comes into effect

  • 25/01/2016
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett (File)
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett (File)

Those looking for social housing are going to have to be less selective as controversial new government rules come into force today.

The changes, announced last year, will mean those looking for state homes could be thrown off the waiting list for 13 weeks for turning down a house "without good reason" more than once.

Currently, potential housing tenants can turn down three homes deemed reasonable before action is taken.

Additionally, they'll also have to name at least three suburbs they want to live in, as opposed to one, currently.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said people being "overly demanding" had been slowing the process down.

"Too many people have been refusing offers of social housing properties without a good reason and this is delaying others from getting into homes that suit their needs," she said.

Ms Bennett said 414 houses out of 10,000 offers had been rejected without good cause in 2015, including for reasons such as wanting a garage or a bigger back yard.

But Ms Bennett came under fire from the opposition when the changes were announced in November.

Labour's Phil Twyford said she was pandering to 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 said.

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

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said Ms Bennett had 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 homes kicked off the waiting list," he said.

But Ms Bennett denied those claims, saying the Ministry of Social Development was just trying to help people desperate for homes.

She said the ministry would look at each case on its merits to ensure people weren't being penalised for health or safety concerns.