Wellington City Council tenants spending up to 80% of income on rent

Benedict Collins
Source: 1News

Tenants in Wellington City Council accommodation spending up to 80 per cent of their income covering their rents are begging the Government to extend the income-related rent subsidy to them.

Wellington City councillor Tamatha Paul told 1News that council tenants are being discriminated against and are ineligble to access the Government's rent subsidy, which caps their rent at 25 per cent of their income.

People in homes from Kāinga Ora and community housing providers are entitled to the subsidy.

Paul said people in council homes are having to pay 70 per cent of the market rate, which often leaves them with nothing left over as council rents continue to climb every year.

"It's got to stop," she said.

One tenant, Nancy, who spoke to 1News outside the Berkeley Dallard in Mt Cook, said many of the tenants are doing it tough. She said many were single people on pensions and benefits and their rate of rent, relative to their incomes, was quite high.

"People who are in city housing are often people who don't have relationship skills and don't have all those skills to manage those things in adversity, so when it gets tougher, it gets really tough," she said.

Tenants have since formed a group, IRRS4ALL, to campaign for the Government to level the playing field and extend the subsidy to council tenants.

Campaigner Rosalina Ngakopu said the high rents were trapping people in poverty and they were struggling to make ends meet. "It's a lot of stress on all of us," she said.

But Housing Minister Megan Woods isn't budging.

She said council tenants are already adequately housed and so are ineligible for income-related rent subsidies.

Woods said if the IRRS was extended to council tenants, it would stop the Government delivering all its planned new public houses.

"The Government is currently providing an estimated $17.6 million over four years to Wellington City Council tenants through the Accommodation Supplement," she said in a statement.

Green Party social housing spokesperson Ricardo Menendez-March says Wood's position is illogical and extending the rent subsidy would allow the council to build more social housing.

"It would cost the Government a drop in the bucket in budgetary terms - it's $50 million over four years - but it would also save the Government money on providing the accommodation supplement.

"It's a win for low-income tenants and a win for increasing supply of affordable housing."