25 Apr 2012

Rent report 'backs housing crisis claim'

9:23 am on 25 April 2012

A Christchurch community worker says a new Government report showing the poor are being hardest hit by rent increases supports claims of a housing crisis, and shows rent controls are needed.

Figures released by the Department of Building and Housing show rents in Canterbury have risen more than twice the national average.

The lowest rents in Auckland are 23% higher than the average of the lowest rents elsewhere, at $320 a week as against $245.

Brenda Lowe-Johnson says the figures show Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee was wrong when he said there was no housing crisis in Canterbury.

She says rent controls are needed to protect vulnerable tenants.

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust spokesperson David Zussman says many low-income workers don't qualify for state housing and won't even get on the waiting list.

"They're forced to remain in whatever accommodation they can find, which is garages, boarding houses, overcrowded houses.

"Housing New Zealand's capacity to help is limited and has become more restricted."

Mr Brownlee has said the Government will not consider rent controls, which he says are hard to police and do not necessarily increase the stock of rental housing.

He said new Government plans would help relieve housing shortages in Christchurch.

On Tuesday, Housing New Zealand closed a tender to speed up the repair of more than 600 houses, while a $21 million payout from the Earthquake Commission to the Christchurch City Council will allow repairs to begin on 280 of its rental properties.

Under new government policy introduced last year, state house tenants must move if they no longer qualify for assistance, which Community Housing Aotearoa chairman Alan Johnson says will create a revolving door situation.

He says the not-for-profit community housing sector can help provide housing, but public money is still needed.

Mr Johnson says the Government's social housing fund of just under $40 million has been swamped with more than $170 million worth of applications from community providers.