12 Sep 2023

Kāinga Ora: Unruly tenants don't deserve privilege of state house - Chris Bishop

11:50 am on 12 September 2023
Kainga Ora Housing in Christchurch

Kāinga Ora housing in Christchurch (file image). Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

National's housing spokesperson Chris Bishop is defending the party's hard line on evicting unruly Kāinga Ora tenants, saying any good landlord needs to be able to call time on those causing "mayhem".

The National Party has been under pressure to explain what would happen to evicted anti-social Kāinga Ora tenants.

As part of its election housing policy, National would direct Kāinga Ora to evict and relocate repeat and serious anti-social people with extra support given to manage their behaviours.

But with a tight rental market, changing criteria for emergency accommodation, and a long waiting list for social housing those tenants' destination is unclear.

Child Poverty Action Group housing spokesperson Alan Johnson told Checkpoint last night cracking down on unruly tenants risked worsening people's lives and this would be especially serious if they also had children or other dependants in their household.

Bishop told Morning Report there were 24,000 people on the waiting list and they deserved to be prioritised over those "who wilfully abuse the privilege of having access to a state house".

"Our view is that the last resort for Kāinga Ora must be to retain the powers to evict people who abuse their right as people who have access to a state house."

He said he had been working with families in his own electorate who desperately needed social housing. Like other families around the country, they were having to make do in motels but would much prefer to be in a state house.

However, there were others already in social housing who were "causing mayhem" in the community, with their loud music at all hours, threats against their neighbours and causing other disorder.

"Kāinga Ora had 10,000 complaints last year and they evicted two people."

Bishop said the agency had the power to evict tenants but was not following through after issuing one or two strikes (or warnings) to them.

"Our simple view is that a good landlord would reserve the right to evict people who are causing mayhem in the community."

However, he did not say exactly where anti-social Kāinga Ora tenants would go if evicted under a National- led government.

National MP Christopher Luxon

Chris Bishop Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Asked about housing being a basic right for people and the possibility he would make some people's lives worse if a harder line was taken, he responded: "I think housing in New Zealand is in crisis and has been for a long time and my focus as housing minister is to sort out the housing crisis.

"That means more affordable private sector homes generally, more affordable rentals, it means more social houses, it means better wraparound support for people in social and emergency housing, drastically reducing the number of people living in cars."

National had a comprehensive plan that included unlocking land in cities and building more social housing, he said.

On emergency housing, he said the government had handed out emergency grants and vouchers too loosely.

The criteria needed to be tightened, referring to those who had received vouchers in other parts of the North Island but had decided to join friends or relatives in Rotorua.

"We want to put a stop to that."

If a person or family had been in an emergency motel for 12 weeks or longer, they should go to the front of the queue for a state house, Bishop said.

"You need to get in to a state house. That is a disaster for your family and also a disaster for the state's books."

If people were able to pay market rents for their state house, Kāinga Ora should be looking to encourage them to move to the private rental sector, Bishop said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs