Christopher Luxon says Kāinga Ora crackdown fair for those on waitlist, but Salvation Army concerned for rulebreakers' children

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says Kāinga Ora needs to be firmer with "unruly" Kāinga Ora tenants to ensure fairness for the thousands of Kiwis on the waiting list.

His comments come as the Government pushes to strengthen the process of tenancy termination but critics are worried the move will increase homelessness.

The Government has instructed Kāinga Ora Homes and Communities to take stronger action against antisocial tenants including terminating tenancies in a letter to the board.

The letter from Housing Minister Chris Bishop and Finance Minister Nicola Willis said there were "hundreds" of serious complaints about Kāinga Ora tenants every month over things like intimidation, harassment and threatening behaviour. Despite this, it said only three tenancies ended in 2023 due to "disruptive behaviour".

The Government wants to accelerate the process of tenancy termination for severe and persistent cases.

Appearing on AM, Luxon said tenants will have multiple formal warnings and notices before they can be evicted.

"They ultimately have a choice here, a choice to actually make sure they are meeting their obligations and they're not being abusive, threatening or being unruly tenants. This is ultimately about calling people to responsibility," Luxon told co-host Melissa Chan-Green.

"The vast majority of KO tenants are incredibly proud and grateful that they have a house. But there are a number of those that actually engage in abusive behaviour. It's just not fair on the 25,000 people that are on a state house waitlist."

The Government also wants to reduce the total debt owed to Kāinga Ora which increased from $1 million to $21 million between 2017 and 2023, with over 450 tenants owning more than $10,000 rent.

Luxon said the vast majority of Kāinga Ora tenants who are in debt are on re-payment plans and 75 percent of those are meeting the plans.

He said Kāinga Ora needs to be stronger on people who refuse to pay rent as it's unfair for those on the waitlist.

"They deserve their shot and their opportunity and if someone's not going to appreciate the opportunity that they've been given by their fellow taxpayer who is subsidising that house, KO needs to be much stronger in terms of evicting them from those tenancies," he said.

According to the Salvation Army, more than half the tenancies (54 percent) are families with children, so there is a chance children could be evicted under the new crackdown.

Luxon said he doesn't want to see families evicted by Kāinga Ora but their parents can choose to change their behaviour to get compliant with their obligations and responsibilities.

"There are children today waking up in motel rooms or staying with family and friends or in community housing providers and those families would love a shot at their opportunity to get a state house," he said.

However, critics say the crackdown could increase the rate of homelessness in New Zealand.

Salvation Army senior social policy analyst Paul Barber said more support is needed to address complaints early and help those struggling with addiction and domestic violence to avoid getting to the point where people are behaving in an extreme way.

He said disruptive tenants are a symptom of the pressures on those communities.

"Eviction is not a solution, it moves the problem somewhere else," Barber said.

"… This is an opportunity now to have a conversation about what we can do better to make sure that we end homelessness in this country and we don't add to it."