Government to pay displaced homeowners hit by North Island extreme weather

The Government will pay displaced homeowners affected by the recent North Island extreme weather to help support them when their insurance payments for temporary accommodation run out.

The interim payment will be available from September 4, 2023, paid weekly and directly to homeowners, and set at 100 percent of the average rent declared by Accommodation Supplement recipients in the recipients' region.

As of June 13, 3884 properties have been red or yellowed-stickered due to the extreme weather. Some displaced homeowners have moved into temporary accommodation in the private rental market and have been relying on insurance payments to cover these costs while still paying costs associated with home ownership.

Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said the Government knows residents who can't return to their homes need certainty and this payment will help bridge the gap until repairs are undertaken or a decision is made on the future of their property.

"After picking up the Auckland portfolio, I prioritised visiting areas impacted by the extreme weather events. Having talked informally to many residents, it's clear that they need and deserve certainty so that they can plan, recover, and get back to a sense of normality," she said.

"The Government has prioritised setting up this payment now, as payments from insurers for temporary accommodation start to run out and the future for some people's homes remain uncertain."

The interim payment will be known as North Island Weather Events - Temporary Accommodation Assistance (NIWE TAA). Displaced homeowners who are eligible can receive a lump-sum payment covering them from as early as June 1, 2023.

The NIWE TAA will be payable at either the household's actual rent or the maximum weekly payment rate, whichever is lower. For some households, where their rent is higher than the maximum payment rate outlined in the table below, this means that they will only be subsidised for a proportion of their temporary accommodation costs.

Broadly, Auckland is in AS area one, Hawke's Bay is in AS area two, Gisborne is in AS area three, and rural areas are in AS area four.
Broadly, Auckland is in AS area one, Hawke's Bay is in AS area two, Gisborne is in AS area three, and rural areas are in AS area four. Photo credit: Supplied.

The Ministry of Development can be contacted from August 21 to book an appointment. Payments are not taxable and will not affect Working for Families and most other social assistance entitlements.

Those who are eligible are New Zealand residents or citizens, or people recognised as a refugee or a protected person in New Zealand under the Immigration Act 2009, and are ordinarily a resident in New Zealand, who:

  • Are displaced from their home, which has received a red or yellow placard as a result of a North Island weather event and continue to have costs associated with their damaged home (e.g., mortgage, rates, insurance)
  • Have a tenancy agreement under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the RTA) before July 19
  • Have previously been receiving payment for temporary accommodation from their insurer but are no longer receiving this payment
  • Are not currently in temporary accommodation service-supplied accommodation, but are registered
  • Are not receiving another government payment for their temporary accommodation costs in the same property (such as the Accommodation Supplement or the Student Allowance Accommodation Benefit).

What isn't covered by the payments includes:

  • The costs of commercial accommodation, such as motels and hotels, since the NIWE TAA is meant for people currently living in private rental accommodation with a tenancy under the Residential Tenancies Act
  • Homeowners who are currently receiving payment for temporary support from their insurer. Where the affected homeowner received an upfront lump sum from their insurer for temporary accommodation costs, they will not be eligible for NIWE TAA until their cover runs out
  • Homeowners receiving the Accommodation Supplement or the Student Allowance Accommodation Benefit in respect of the costs of their temporary accommodation. This will ensure the payment is targeted to people who are not otherwise supported to pay for temporary private rental accommodation.

Sepuloni said there is work underway on what a longer-term solution may look like, if it's needed. In the meantime, she said the interim payment will give displaced homeowners the certainty and confidence they need to plan ahead.

A Temporary Accommodation Assistance has been set up previously after the Canterbury earthquakes. That TAA was started to support displaced homeowners to meet the costs of their temporary accommodation while remediation was happening on their primary residence.