‘Nothing off the table’ as Government looks to support renters

Source: 1News

The Government is looking at “options” and “measures” to support struggling renters, Poto Williams says.

The Associate Minister of Housing told Breakfast officials had been tasked with compiling a list of proposals the Government could look at as it wanted to find a solution to the issue.

The list was due back next week.

The news came as Williams was grilled on the show about rents and housing affordability.

READ MORE: Home ownership dream 'gone' for Porirua renter

Housing Minister Megan Woods was unavailable, Breakfast’s John Campbell said.

Low-income New Zealanders are paying more in rent than anywhere else in the OECD.

“What we are looking at now are some anomalies that are in our system which means that our rents are becoming unaffordable for our families,” Williams said.

“Now I’ve charged our officials to go away and look at what are the options we can put in the short term to support our renters whilst we roll out the programme of housing.”

Proposals being “floated” included rent control and indexation, Williams disclosed, saying repeatedly throughout the interview “there is nothing that’s off the table”.

Williams acknowledged it is “tough” for renters and said “affordability is a tough nut to crack”.

An overhead view of a suburban neighbourhood.

CoreLogic’s September 2021 Housing Affordability Report found it was at its worst in 18 years, with the average property value across New Zealand 7.9 times the average annual household income.

A November 2021 report by the Ministry of Social Development found more than 60 per cent of low-income renters in New Zealand in 2018 were spending more than 40 per cent of their income just covering the rent — the worst ratio in the OECD.

Williams said the Government’s “desire” is for people to own their own homes as it “brings families prosperity” when the case of Porirua renter Wiremu Bayliss was put to her.

Bayliss told Breakfast on Tuesday: "It's not about just the avocado on toast. It's actually sometimes the toast itself for some families.

"That ship's [home ownership] sailed for us. There's just no way we will be able to save for a house before I get to KiwiSaver, SuperGold card age.”

The Government has been accused this week of allowing inequality to grow.

Political and economic commentator Bernard Hickey on Monday claimed the Government’s policies, along with Covid-19, had seen those with assets have a “fantastic time” over the last 21 months, while renters and beneficiaries had “struggled”.

"So Covid for those people who own homes and shares has been absolutely fantastic. For those who are renters and who are on precarious incomes or maybe a benefit, it has been not just bad, but awful."

READ MORE: Tenant ‘stoked’ with $220pw sleep-out after 55 applications

Former Green MP Nándor Tánczos took to Twitter on Tuesday to question the Government on addressing the housing crisis and growing inequality.

“It's hard to find the right words to express my disgust at Jacinda Ardern and this Government. Labour was elected with a huge mandate to do something serious about growing inequality, including the housing crisis,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I know it takes time to make change but I can't see any evidence that they are even considering actions that might have a serious impact. In fact she indicated on election night that she was ruling out anything that would impact the wealthy.”

Williams told Breakfast what was going to help renters in the long term was building more houses, which the Government had “done a great job of starting”.

She did warn, however, a balance would need to be struck in helping struggling renters.

“I do want to be clear, some of the measures being proposed, there’s a balance we need to strike here to ensure with it so we don’t cause inequities in other places of the system ...," Williams said.

“There are signs that there are stabilisations within the housing market and that’s a good sign because it will build affordability back into the system. What I’m saying is proposals around rent controls and the like overseas has shown that while it will alleviate issues in one area, it sometimes causes problems in others.

“So whatever measures we put in place, there is a trade-off and a balance to be struck. So we want to look carefully at these measures, but we also want to look quickly at giving our renters some relief.”