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Rent rises on the way

Wairarapa-based social housing provider and hospitality business operator Trust House [TH] has announced that those of its tenants not currently receiving the government’s income-related rent [IRR] subsidy are now facing a rent rise in three months.

These 180 tenants will, on average, pay between $9 and $27 a week more from July 1.

In a statement, TH was at pains to emphasise that, once the increases kick in, these tenants will be paying weekly rents that range from $182 to $425 a week, which are “on average, well below the market rate”, while the increases are “at or below CPI”.

Along with TH’s other 289 tenants, the 180 tenants not receiving the IRR were originally facing average increased rents of around 60 per cent “from the beginning of April”, per a TH press release on January 17.

After Times-Age coverage of the announcement and negative public reaction, however, TH put the increases for the non-IRR tenants on hold “while a review of the Trust’s Housing Improvement Programme is carried out”.

Meanwhile, the rents of the TH tenants receiving the IRR – which essentially protects them from rent increases by limiting their contribution to 25 per cent of their income – have already begun increasing on a property-by-property basis.

The average of their rent increases – which are being footed by taxpayers – is around 60 per cent.

According to TH, the rises are intended to bring rents into line with market rentals, in order to partially cover the cost of refurbishing its housing stock for a total price tag of $50 million [around $100,000 per house].

Letters informing the 180 non-IRR tenants of the rent rise have been sent this week, “giving tenants more time to make contact with Work and Income to see if they are entitled to financial assistance or are receiving all their entitlements”, the TH statement said.

TH has undertaken to “also help tenants to make contact with Work and Income if needed”.

In the statement, TH acting chief executive Graeme Bell is quoted as saying that improving the quality of existing houses and building new housing remains a priority, and the organisation is working on a plan for how this can be done.

However, finalising that plan will be a job for the new permanent chief executive.

Until a replacement is recruited, Bell said his focus was “providing business continuity across the organisation and business operations for staff, tenants, stakeholders and the community”.

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