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Rent reprieve at the eleventh hour

Community housing provider Trust House has put previously announced rent increases for some of its tenants indefinitely on hold.

Trust House issued a press release late yesterday which detailed its change of heart.

In a subsequent explanatory email to the Times-Age, Trust House chief executive Charles Kaka explained that some of the proposed rent increases were now on hold, although they would still go ahead for other tenants.

“I can also confirm that the put-on-hold decision applies to all 189 of our tenants involved in the process,” he said.

Kaka previously said a total of 478 social housing tenants would have rent rises. Of those, all but 189 are receiving government help for accommodation called Income Related Rent [IRR].

The decision to postpone the rent hikes relates only to those not currently getting that assistance, on the understanding that increases for the others will be funded.

“Trust House rent increases will be put on hold while a review of the Trust’s Housing Improvement Programme is carried out,” the press release said.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty welcomed the reprieve for the 189 tenants.

“It’s very good news for the people we were worried about,” he said.

“It’s a huge relief for those affected and the whole of Wairarapa and the Tararua district. If the rent rises had gone ahead, the region was at risk of a marked increase in poverty and homelessness.”

McAnulty said the message from the community has been clear.

“I hope this pause in the rent rises becomes permanent. In future, I hope Trust House increases rents in a gradual and reasonable manner.”

McAnulty also thanked those who came forward to oppose the proposed increases.

Kaka said the decision affecting the 189 tenants was made after receiving feedback about the proposed increases from tenants and the community.

It is unclear if blind solo mother Michelle Russell, whose story features alongside to the right, will be one of those getting the rent reprieve.

“Our intention was to bring rents in line with market rentals as part of a plan to invest $50m in improving the quality of our existing housing and building new housing in the Wairarapa,” Kaka said.

He said Trust House had increased the rents expecting they would be fully funded by the government.

“At the time, we were confident that these tenants would qualify for an IRR subsidy, and we now understand this may not be the case.

“This uncertainty has caused stress to them, and we are very sorry for this,” he said.

“It was not our intention, and we are now going to put any rent increases on hold while we review our plans, including how we assess our housing for market rentals.

“It will also include working with government agencies to ensure our tenants are receiving all their entitlements and subsidy support for their housing needs.”

Affected tenants would get letters rescinding the 60-day notices.

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