To: Hon Megan Woods
Minister for Housing
Tēnā koe Minister,
In a time when both rents and house prices are sky-rocketing, it’s essential that we create a strong and supportive public housing network that provides affordable and quality housing for those who need it. Council housing is a crucial part of this social housing network, but for too long it hasn't been adequately supported.
Council housing is supposed to provide affordable, quality housing in our communities. But the rules set out by previous Governments means that council housing tenants are currently left worse off than those living in other forms of public housing, as they’re not eligible for rent subsidies. Councils want to provide affordable public housing, but are held back by limited funding and fiscal restraints.
Income Related Rent Subsidies (IRRS) ensure social housing tenants pay no more than 25% of their income on rent, while allowing social housing providers to still cover their costs. Right now, Kāinga Ora and community housing providers have access to these subsidies and pass them on to their tenants, but councils don’t. It means council housing tenants have to pay more than if they could get support from other social housing providers, for reasons completely out of their hands.
Our ask is simple; that the Government extend Income Related Rent Subsidy (IRRS) to council housing tenants.
It would mean that many people on low-incomes, including senior citizens and disabled people on income support, would have more money left to put towards other basic needs. It would also ensure our councils are in a position to not just maintain and upgrade their council housing stock, but to also build even more public housing and expand who is eligible for it. We all benefit by increasing the supply of affordable rentals.
There are approximately 8,000 council houses in Aotearoa, and if this subsidy was available, it’s estimated that 80% of people living in them would be eligible. That means approximately 80% of council housing tenants are currently paying unaffordable rents, while also being some of the most vulnerable in our community. When unaffordable housing is defined as having to pay more than 30% of your income on housing, it just doesn’t make sense that so many people with low incomes are living in unaffordable housing provided by local government. Thousands of tenants would be much better off if the Government made this simple change to fix council housing.
I ask that you extend the Income Related Rent Subsidy IRRS to council housing tenants, so that all social housing tenants can afford their rent. We need to be pulling all the levers at all levels of government to tackle the housing crisis. Together, we can help fix council housing and create more affordable rents to tackle the housing crisis.
Ngā mihi nui,
Ricardo Menéndez March
Spokesperson for Seniors and Social Development