Kāinga Ora tenants hope Government crackdown will make a difference

Story by Rayssa Almeida of RNZ

Kāinga Ora tenants abused by their neighbours are doubting the government's crackdown on disruptive tenants will make a difference on their behaviour.

The housing and finance ministers have sent a letter demanding that the state landlord takes a tougher stance on unruly clients.

The ministers say the Sustaining Tenancies Framework - which aims to keep tenants in a home - has meant there is no incentive for them to improve anti-social behaviour or stop damaging the houses.

Cheyne Smith has been a Kāinga Ora tenant since 2015 and has spent most of his time in Auckland, suffering constant abuse from his neighbours.

"I've been beaten, the house has been robbed, egged, bottled. Visitors were assaulted, vehicles got stolen. It was a nightmare."

In September last year he was moved to Hamilton, to another social housing complex.

He said tensions with other state housing neighbours remained constant.

"In about five weeks of living here, I went to take my son up the road to do some shopping and the tenants put flat nails and screws underneath my tyres, flattened both of them. Since then, they've kicked my door down multiple times."

He got in contact with his Kāinga Ora property manager to express his concerns, with no success.

"My property manager... turned up last week and just said to me 'we're not moving you; I can't tell you what's happening with [the neighbour involved] because it's a different property manager.'

"I was like, are you kidding me?"

Smith got abused even inside his own home, he said.

"I mow the front lawn very rarely because of the abuse that happens, it's scary, it's stressful. Nobody should live like this."

He said the government crack down on anti-social behaviour might not change the outcome.

"I don't think it will change [unruly tenants] behaviour because Kāinga Ora has let them get away with it so long.

"My property manager, he comes across as terrified of people like that. They've become so unruly, that even Kāinga Ora themselves are pretty scared."

A video, recorded at Labour weekend last year, showed a man striking the outside of a Kāinga Ora apartment complex with a hammer.

'I'm scared of them' - social housing tenant

One of Smith's neighbours, social housing tenant Leoni, was also a victim of anti-social behaviour.

"[My neighbours] are a couple, a young one, with at least five children. All it took was for me to ask them to move one of their kids out of the driveway for them to go ballistic at me.

"They shouted, yelled, cornered me into my front door the minute I pulled over. They called me white trash, silly old f****. They yelled and spat on my garden; it was terrifying."

She said her complaints to Kāinga Ora had fallen on deaf years.

"Our property manager came, put a few signs up advising kids not to play in the driveway and that was it.

"They said they would do something about it, but that's all you hear from them, there is no follow up."

She hoped the new policies around anti-social behaviour on state housing would mean that she could feel safe again.

"I hope [government] actually gets around to enforcing tenancy rules that everyone else has to follow.

"It's not about just providing a home, it's about providing a safe home and make sure those who don't follow the rules face the consequences for it."

'I felt insecure and unsupported'

In Christchurch, Bernice Hodges, 58, knew exactly what it was like to live in fear.

"For years we had these neighbours, also Kāinga Ora tenants like me, terrifying the whole community.

"They were day after day yelling and swearing, abusing everyone, showing the fingers, mumbling bad words as we passed by."

She said the fear of going home took a toll on her mental health.

"I felt insecure and unsupported. I felt so intimidated to the point that I was always recording [as I was] going out of my driveway or coming home due to the abuse, the foul language."

Hodges tried to contact the state landlord to act against the anti-social behaviour, but she said nothing was done.

"They just turned around and sort of switched it straight under the carpet."

After multiple attempts to get the situation resolved and her peace back, Hodges took Kāinga Ora to court.

"Nothing was done until I decided to get it enforced by going to the Tenancy Tribunal.

"And the result of that was those neighbours were moved, after it was strongly suggested by the adjudicator that Kāinga Ora did so."

Hodges was on the fence about the government's crackdown on antisocial behaviour at state housing.

"Kāinga Ora tenancy managers and team leaders need to be regulated just like any other property management, they need to be trained in how to take action on these circumstances and how they can apply tenancy rules to their unruly clients.

"I believe new policies could work as long as this government really keeps a thumb on top of Kāinga Ora's head."

Kāinga Ora has been approached for comment.