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On notice: Renters face massive hike

Hundreds of the region’s most vulnerable face extreme financial hardship as 2023 brings massive rent hikes.

Almost 500 Trust House social housing tenants across Wairarapa and in Tararua are being asked to pay rent increases of as much as 153 per cent from April.

A total of 478 households are affected, 378 across Wairarapa and 100 in Tararua.

The average uplift is expected to be about 60 per cent, ranging from the smallest at 15 per cent, to the biggest at 153 per cent.

Rents were expected to go from about $320 per week to $520 for a three-bedroomed house, from under $200 to around $400 a week for a one-bedroomed property, and to more than $600 a week for a five-bedroomed house.

The rent increase notices were issued late last week, and those affected reacted with shock and anger.

A central Masterton Trust House tenant spoke to the Times–Age on condition of anonymity.

His rent is going up to $505 a week from its current $325. The family are already in arrears, repaying that at an extra $50, meaning they now must pay $555 a week. He is unemployed, but his partner works. At least one family member has a chronic health condition.

“It’s wrong, man,” he said.

“How do they expect people to survive? Look at the price of food and everything going up; how do they expect people to pay for power and everything else?

“All those working families down here – where are they going to find the extra $200?”

He lives in a three-bedroomed house with no garage, heating, or provided whiteware, although the house is insulated. He said there was mould on the walls, and the garden often flooded.

The reason given in the notice was prices were going up in line with the market, but he said their home was far inferior to those on TradeMe.

“We might as well rent off a real estate agent and get a proper house,” he said.

The family did not qualify for government help, although others did.

Charles Kaka, chief executive officer of landlord Trust House, said of those affected, only 189 did not currently qualify for government help to help pay for the increase.

Kaka said the rises were in line with current market rents and were necessary to ensure funds were available for repairs, maintenance, renovation and future development.

He recognised some would have difficulty and said the letters advising the hikes had asked people to contact the Ministry of Social Development [MSD] and other government departments to find out if they qualified for help.

“We strongly recommend them to contact MSD to arrange a meeting to discuss their entitlements,’ he said.

Of the 189, 122 were in Masterton, 59 in Tararua, five in Featherston, two in Martinborough, and one in Carterton.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty opposed the hikes and intended to discuss the matter with Housing Minister Megan Woods to explore options.

“I am deeply disappointed by these outrageous increases,” he said.

“Trust House have a responsibility to provide affordable housing for people. As a community housing provider, they should not be charging market rents,” he said. I opposed increased rents [for Trust House tenants] before, and I oppose them now.

“It’s outrageous to do this in one go. Even people on average salaries would struggle, let alone the most vulnerable.

“This is completely avoidable and will result in hardship for people. I fear this will result in increased homelessness across the region. For people with limited incomes, this will cause considerable difficulty.”

McAnulty urged those affected to contact his office in Masterton if they needed help applying for government help.

Blair McKenzie, MSD regional commissioner, acknowledged the stress experienced by people struggling to find affordable homes.

“We will do whatever we can to support people affected by these rent increases. We are contacting MSD clients who are Trust House tenants and are facing rent increases to arrange a time to meet with them to check if they are receiving their full entitlements and check what additional support we can provide,” he said.

He encouraged those affected to get in touch.

The accommodation supplement is a weekly payment that helps people with their rent, board or the cost of owning a home. Eligibility depends on a range of factors, including other income.

Temporary additional support is also available to help meet essential living costs.

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