Ō wheako whaiaro
Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences with us during the Housing Inquiry. This was key to informing our inquiry and understanding the issues.
Here are some of the experiences that were shared during our inquiry (with permission).
"The cost in particular is so inhibitive it restricts you into the future into a cycle of renting. Costs for up and vastly outstrip pay increases.
[I've] had both good and bad property managers. Currently have a property manager who values us as tenants and supports us into we options. Others have exploited sand sought very personal information in order to assess our suitability.
The tenancy tribunal is daunting and often not worth it for minor issues. The risk of being blacklisted too makes you feel powerless.
We had to provide very personal and over the top information for our rental applications which are violations of our privacy but we had no choice because it's a competition with 20-30 other potential tenants. Desperate to have a roof over our and our children's heads we provided things that the landlord or agent has no right to. Additionally needing to take time off work to view properties in order to apply for rentals is immensely difficult.
Housing is a right and tenants are not a commodity to be exploited. Profits for landlords who already have both wealth and housing security should not be the primary purpose of housing. Housing is a service."
"I am a financial mentor working with beneficiaries and low income people. Housing affordability is the paramount concern for all. I have worked with people who are homeless, in emergency housing and in rentals.
Right now landlords and in particular property managers are not accountable.
From my experience the property managers lack cultural understanding of Pasifika peoples and the way they live. They approach their role from a purely Pākehā standpoint and do not engage or even try to understand the needs of the tenants in the properties they manage.
Landlords try and maximise the profits of their tenancies at the expense of beneficiaries with the attitude that MSD will pay the rent increases.
All of the above are impacted by high rental costs. Tenants will prioritise the rent over everything else because there is a tight rental market and they don't want to have to go back into emergency housing."
"As a sole parent I moved more than ten times over my children's' primary and secondary schooling. It cost a lot to move and was often because housing was inadequate- moldy cold and damp which made both my and my sons asthma worse, or if it was nicer, it would be only a matter of time before the rent went up to over 60% of my income or the landlord told me she was selling it or moving family in.... there was no security of tenure...eventually after living in an outdoor shed at my sisters for three months with both my kids I got a council flat (only two bedroom but I was happy to sleep in the lounge and give both my kids a room each.) Later on I got into a relationship and in a couple we bought a house with no deposit but two ok incomes made this possible. After 10 years I left this relationship and unfortunately came out with very little financial redress....so it was back to insecure rentals, but this time with an older teenage daughter and then my son as he needed to move back in aged 21. For a while, cramped over inflated three bedroom flat, again for 60% of my income, which meant saving to try and buy a home felt impossible again.
I am now 53, and though both my children are in there twenties, I am still really hard struggling to save for a home to buy despite saving. I moved onto my mums property and got a rental cabin to save costs while I have saved. I have been looking at short term contracts in Australia to try and save quickly enough to be able to buy a one as I'm worried now about ageism in terms of how financial lenders view people with less than 15 years until retirement age. It really plays on my mind that I have no housing security. If there were decent local council run homes with access to green space, gardens and stability of tenure, I would feel less insecure than I do when faced with the private rental market where ageism also applies.
When one of my young adult children was unwell I needed to find a rental for myself and my adult child, it was impossible. Every flat viewing meant waiting in queues with what seemed like at least 50 younger people and there was a definite bias towards a younger professional couple in the rental market. This meant that we eventually moved into a substandard flat which was overpriced for what it was. Existing only on my income at this time. It got to the point where I was spending more than I earned to live so had to move out of the rea and find a new job somewhere a lot cheaper which was luckily possible but caused a breakdown in my and my young adult child's relationship.
Even though I haven't been personally in need of emergency accommodation I work with pregnant women and new mothers who are by necessity in emergency accommodation and they are often really isolated from support and feel quite unsafe. I have had many flats in my time where landlords didn't respect tenancy rights or failed to maintain the property to a fit standard. My best flat was a council flat but it was income tested and as soon as I was $50 above the income threshold per week I knew I needed to move on before the next review so that meant going back into an over priced private rental market.
I feel our whole system is set up in a way that housing is a commodity rather than the focus being on housing as a human right. People who already have a home leverage against that to buy one more or two more or three or more... I know some people who have bought one extra and I can see why they have (to help a grown up child into housing often as co-owners) but so many people haven't got that option now. I think there should be restrictions on how many houses one person/private company can buy and only "not for profit" community trusts or local councils or iwi/hapū providers should be able to own for rental more than for houses. They need to be audited also to ensure they are meeting regulations around provision of accessible, affordable and livable community housing.
I also think banking regulations should restrict how many houses people can buy. They could do this by raising LTV ratios for investors to having to have a 30% deposit for one extra home, 50% deposit for a third and 100% deposit for a fourth. For first home buyers it should be 5% deposit so that first home buyers have an advantage, rather than how it is now where they are disadvantaged.
Change the laws around tax and banking finance regulations to reduce commodification of housing, and build more houses."
*Susan's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity
"Biggest problem other than affordability and availability is the number of restrictions on the type of housing and the areas that are suitable. I need a standalone property that gives me peace, space and privacy. High density housing makes me anxious and stressed. I have health problems with air pollution and react badly to extreme heat and cold. I need access to libraries with a computer, banks, post office and public transport.
Emergency housing is too noisy and crowded. Conditions for renters are rents are too high and no landlords reference. Rentals are unstable and anxiety inducing.
I have received discrimination from politicians and social agencies because I am childless and having all these restrictions on the type of housing that is suitable for me. My housing situation is complex and different to most people
[My message for decision makers is] more variety in the type of housing, not just high rise buildings and apartments. Be mindful in designing housing."
“Children living in cold, damp, unhealthy homes can not engage in their education on the same footing as children who don't. This entrenches disadvantage across generations.
As a solo mum with 4 kids, I lived in a rural property that repeatedly ran out of water. I'm a lawyer but it was incredibly stressful, and despite my relative privilege, I found the current ways to resolve problems with landlords were not effective.
It shouldn't be left to renters to navigate living in a decent home. Many are living in challenging circumstances already, and leaving it to them to obtain their rights adds another layer of stress onto an already stressful life.
If you want to ensure equal opportunity and equity, one of the fundamental building blocks is living in a decent home. People need access to housing that is healthy and secure. It's critical to ensuring we have a decent society. For those that choose to become a landlord, it should be on the basis they provide a healthy, decent home. Tenants can't choose to be a tenant or not, but becoming a landlord is a choice.”
“My partner and I are lucky that we can afford a fairly decent place to rent. We used to aspire to own our own home but realistically there's no way we'll ever get to that stage, especially since rent and other expenses keep going up and incomes stay the same. Lately we're more focused on and worried about continuing to be able to afford the same quality of life we have now (and not having to downgrade our housing because we can't afford a fairly decent home anymore).
The legislation is mostly there (although it could be better - insulation in the walls would be nice) but there's no real way to make sure it's enforced. It takes forever to get anything through the tenancy tribunal and then the tenant's name is attached to that case forever, and there's always the fear that future landlords won't want to rent to you because they'll think you're a difficult tenant.”
*Marty's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity.
"I'm 67 with health and mobility issues and cannot afford to retire.
I've had to move 4 times in the past 5 years due to rentals being sold. Each time costs over $1000 as I have disabilities that mean I cannot carry much in terms of weight.
The tenancy tribunal and Tenancy Services are of limited use as landlords can find out that you've used them and blacklist you. MSD Accommodation supplements are not enough to access rental properties and still be able to eat let alone participate in society.
Society is showing signs of cracks as people have no investment in their local communities as they have to move so often, they don't put down roots or care about their locality. Children have to move schools and sometimes get "lost" to the system"
*Anna's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity.
"My child and grandchild have been living in emergency housing for coming up 3 years.
Initially they were moved around a couple of motels in one city, where there was drinking and fighting on-site, before relocating to a different city so the grandchild could visit their other parent. As there was no emergency housing in the city they were relocating to at that time they were put into a women’s refuge where they had to return to the home before 10pm and no visitors allowed.
After 3 months they were moved to a motel which was filthy and had no cooking facilities in the room. There was a kitchen on site but meant taking our grandchild out in the cold to prepare meals. In July they were moved to the next room which fortunately had cooking facilities but the condition was absolutely disgusting. It had holes in the walls, vomit and food on the walls, mouldy curtains which affects our grandchilds asthma, and the door doesn’t lock properly and several times has had to be left unlocked, as well as a dangerous cracked power point. This has all been reported several times and to date nothing has been repaired.
My child is on the council housing list and emergency housing list. I have written to so many councillors, managers, ministers etc about the housing situation but there seems to be no compassion. My child has applied for several private rentals but unfortunately been unsuccessful even though they have a good record. I have personally contacted the real estate agents offering more bond and rent in advance to make it more attractive without success. My family and I reside in Australia and helping our child in NZ into a home of her own is not an option unfortunately.
Although my child is fortunate to have a roof over her head, the conditions they lived in for nearly 3 years has taken a huge toll on their mental health."
*Lara's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity.
"Two years I was in emergency accommodation
I experienced more in that time frame then I had done so in my whole life. I overcame situations other people will never have to face in there life.
I watched kids that weren't mine cause there was always either drama violence, drug dealings or some thing happening at the hotels. The owners didn't care, they cared about the money. Some made deals with other customers p I remember this time the owner asked a patch member to be security for a week cause he was going out of town, just weird stuff like that. Dodgy and weird.
Some facilities didn't even have ovens or chattels, wasn't compliant or livable.
Different hotels would treat you differently they stopped caring about the people and only cared for the money.
There's so many of us out there that have been let down due to emergency accommodation, many more personal stories and experiences. And people have become use to that way of living cause they have been made to feel like that's there only option.
It's mentally draining when you don't have stability
I was a single person but I met hundreds of whanau's, couples, people who had smaller rooms then me with 2 sometimes 3 kids, it wasn't ok. Even the cleaners at some hotels would just get upset because it was hard for them to see what was happening.
Baffles me they were happy to pay 4,500 dollars every 2 weeks but didn't want to put me in a home for rent at 350 a week. I found a house for myself but they declined it because the rent was too much.
People have cut corners. People have let things slide and no one wants to take accountability. Multiple privacy breaches, no human rights.
People getting taken advantage of people not knowing their rights and the support agency's that are supposed to help don't really. They just do there jobs for show.
But the government already knows the damage they have done and are causing."
*Tamara's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity.
"I was in Emergency Housing for several months then upgraded to a transitional house for another several months.
I made many complaints about the culture at my transitional housing which were about:
- Security stuff
- Service provider Staff
Nothing was ever done! I wrote one complaint for it to only be shared to the person I wrote about.
I also made many complaints to WINZ, only to be told by my service providers not to bother as they do nothing.
Never ending calls and complaints to Social development with no call back or anything ever done about them.
Someone was stabbed in my transitional home and I asked for a transfer. I was denied this and told I was to either stay in this house or move out. Me and my child lived in our car at friends or out of town for 4/6 weeks.
I never felt safe in my emergency accommodation."
*Toni's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity.
“There’s no accountability to transitional housing providers for youth in particular. And when our young people go into these places, they're very disgusting. They're very low level, they're going back into places that are not safe for them. They're going back into places where there are a calibre of people with high needs, high complex needs, who are also at risk, adults and older. When we went to go and look at this place to go and see what kind of place MSD were putting her into when they first arrived, there was an old man there who looked at her and was asking her questions and followed her around, making her feel so unsafe. He even came into her room. The people allowed him to follow her through the complex and then to see where her room was.”
“So accountability to youth for emergency accommodation or transitional housing providers who are providing for youth in particular, that there is some type of criteria that they must meet before they can just put any of our young people into those places. Because they're paying at very high rates, millions of dollars that these providers are getting. But the standard of living that they're putting these young people into is more harmful and it adds to their trauma and their negative experience. “
*Frank's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity.
"I moved into a one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend on a one-year lease, but several months into it we broke up. Now if we want to move out we have to pay thousands of dollars to break our lease, as well as pay rent until someone new moves in. Even if I find someone to move in, I cannot afford thousands of dollars to break the lease."
"Now I am stuck in a tiny apartment with my ex-boyfriend. It’s creating significant challenges for my wellbeing."
"A solution would be that regulations don't allow for costs to be charged for breaking leases, especially if someone new moves in right away so no gaps in income for property owners."
"Rangatahi first off face that high level of discrimination which from a human rights context as you know is a very heavy burden for a young person to go into ministries and government places where they are expected to go when they are facing these kind of issues In Aotearoa we don't have any youth housing information centres, so there's nowhere that people can actually physically go and get information”
“If you're a teenager, having that experience of even, one night of homelessness or, many, many nights of rough sleeping and things like that just changes the whole trajectory of your life and your outcomes and your well-being. And it's a very different experience to being an adult in that space.”
“our rangatahi often talk about in a motel space, they'd rather be on the streets or in a car, than be in emergency housing. Because if you're young, you're the most vulnerable person in that space.”
*Mary's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity.