6 Oct 2016

Tenants upset over new housing provider's approach

8:13 am on 6 October 2016

Council housing tenants in Christchurch are unhappy their new landlord has not arranged face-to-face meetings with them to answer their questions.

Airedale Courts

Airedale Courts has about 60 tenants. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust took over management of the council's more than 2000 housing units on Monday.

The housing trust was set up so the council could access the Ministry of Social Development's income-related rent subsidy, something the government was unwilling to pay to it directly.

As the second largest social housing provider in the country after Housing New Zealand, it is hoping the extra cash will help it retain ownership of its ageing housing stock.

Barbara Allen, Airedale Courts, Christchurch

Airedale Courts tenant Barbara Allen said it was important to be able to talk to someone from the Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust face-to-face. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Airedale Courts is home to about 60 council tenants.

Tenant Barbara Allen said she was not able to make it to meetings happening elsewhere in the city and she thought it was important the trust show its face at her complex.

"Because it's a big step from the council to the new one [the Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust] and we haven't had anyone to come around to tell us all about it, only by letter."

Kamila Abdurhman, who shares her two-bedroom flat with her husband and two young children, said she wanted to know what the trust was going to do to make her unit warmer and dryer, especially for her daughter who has asthma.

Ms Allen's concerns were shared by most of the tenants RNZ spoke to, including Alan Hurst.

Alan Hurst.

Alan Hurst. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Mr Hurst said many tenants did not have cars and would struggle to make it to the other housing complexes around town where the trust was meeting face-to-face with people.

"The council in the past, particularly with the renovations, have had meetings here ... and there are some vacant buildings they could use to hold a public meeting.

"I think some people are concerned [that] with all of the renovations going on they'll put the rents up quite a bit at some stage."

However, the trust's chief executive Cate Kearney gave an assurance rents would not go up for existing tenants.

Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust chief executive Cate Kearney.

Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust chief executive Cate Kearney. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Information sessions an 'easy bus ride' away - Trust chief executive

Ms Kearney said the only reason meetings were not taking place at Airedale Courts was there was not a meeting room there big enough to hold all of the tenants.

But she said meetings would be happening elsewhere.

"Some of the nearby information sessions would be within 2 to 5 kilometres I would think and an easy bus ride."

Some of her managers had visited the complex on Monday and had spoken to a handful of tenants they came across while walking around.

She said the trust was happy to talk face-to-face with anybody who got in touch with it.

"We've increased our tenancy managers. There's almost double the number of tenancy managers there were compared with city council.

"So I think it was 300 to 350 under the city council. We'll have about 170 to 180 tenancies for each of our managers."

Ms Kearney said while current tenants' rent would stay the same, new tenants rent would go from 50 percent to 70 percent of the market rate.

That meant a flat costing $200 a week currently would increase to $280, although Ms Kearney said tenants may be able to cover the difference by claiming the accommodation supplement.

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