Green Party slams Government's 'cruel' Kāinga Ora crackdown

Evicting more people from Kāinga Ora homes shows the Government is ignorant to the consequences of poverty, the Greens say, but the Housing Minister says state housing is a privilege that can be taken away if abused.

The Government is demanding Kāinga Ora take a tougher stance on unruly social housing tenants, saying the agency needs to make "timely usage" of formal warning notices and relocations under the Residential Tenancies Act, and to "accelerate the process of tenancy termination" in severe and persistent cases.

The Green Party has slammed the policy, saying the it will "result in a proliferation of poverty and trauma across our most vulnerable communities".

Green Party housing spokesperson Tamatha Paul said the Government was seeking to define a category of undeserving poor people.

"Ignorant to the consequences of poverty, people living in state housing are now in the government's firing line.

"Today's announcement that the Government will evict more state housing tenants, despite there being nowhere else for them to go, marks the latest episode in the coalition's series of assaults against people and communities who need support the most."

Speaking to RNZ's Checkpoint, Housing Minister Chris Bishop said anybody evicted from social housing would still have some options.

"They will have to consider a range of accommodation options, as to what they do. Maybe bunking with friends and family, maybe looking to the private rental market if they possibly can. They will have to consider their options."

He said any decision over evictions were "ultimately a judgement call for Kāinga Ora themselves".

He said that there were no numbers on how many tenants might be affected by any new rules, but there were hundreds of serious incidents currently occurring every month, so it would be "more than right now".

Bishop said the Government hoped that there would be no new evictions because of the new direction.

"I want it to be a tool that Kāinga Ora can use, if they absolutely have to in order to drive better behaviour from people.

"It's going to be a last resort option, but at the moment it is just barely used, Kāinga Ora don't even think about it.

"It needs to be there and it needs to be made use of."

He said rent arrears could be enough to result in an eviction, "in conjunction with other things".

Paul said it was "particularly cruel" for the Government to look to punish state housing tenants for struggling to pay rent, when that Governemnt was actively reducing benefits.

"Everybody deserves a home, regardless of who they are or where they come from. Housing is a basic human right and to deny someone that right because the Government deems some tenants as unworthy will exacerbate homelessness and social deprivation.

But Bishop told Checkpoint that said eventually the Government had to say enough was enough, and that social housing was a privilege that could be taken away if it was abused.

Labour's housing spokesperson Kieran McAnulty said the Government wanted the issue of a social housing waitlist and problem tenants to go away, without having to solve the problem causing the waitlist - the lack of homes.

"Luxon and Bishop failed to clarify whether an evicted tenant would return to the social housing waiting list - or if this policy is a way to cut this list down.

"They are yet to promise to build additional state homes - and rather would just turf people out onto the streets, children included, to free some up."

The ACT Party welcomed the move, which was in line with a commitment set out in the National-ACT coalition agreement.

Leader David Seymour said the threat of eviction was an "essential incentive to discourage malicious behaviour".

"An antisocial minority of Kāinga Ora tenants learned they could terrorise their neighbours without consequence. Today's change in tack will be a relief to residents subjected to ceaseless noise, vandalism, and threats."

Seymour said his party would continue to advocate for stronger action, "such as ensuring tenants terminated for antisocial behaviour are moved to the bottom of housing waitlists, and requiring Kāinga Ora to engage with police if they are made aware of illegal activity".

Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor Daniel Newman said "communities under siege" would welcome the Government's move to push the state housing agency to evict "crap tenants".

"The worst tenants have abused the privilege of their taxpayer-funded state house, they abuse their neighbours, they annihilate the peace and quiet enjoyment of the street where they live, and in some cases they have transformed their dwelling into a location of interest to the police because of illegal behaviour such as drug-dealing and group assembly," he said in a statement on Monday evening.

He said neighbours would be the biggest winners, "many of whom are Kāinga Ora tenants too".

"To those tenants who are concerned about the future, the short answer is don't be anti-social, don't commit crime, and don't destroy your taxpayer-funded state house."