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Pensioner speaks out about Trust

A Masterton pensioner with debilitating health challenges has spoken to the Times-Age about the impact of how social housing provider Trust House has managed its recent rent rises for some of its tenants.

The pensioner – who asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about adverse consequences – received a Trust House letter dated January 20 saying their rent would rise by more than 70 per cent to almost $450 a week. Two weeks later, a second letter, dated February 2, said the rent hike was paused.

“This letter is to advise you that we are putting that rent increase on hold and are rescinding the 60-day notice you received about the rent increase,” it said.

Then, on March 27, a further Trust House letter said a revised rent increase would go ahead.

“We have now finished the review and have determined that there will be an increase, but it will be significantly less than what was initially planned when we wrote to you in January,” the letter said.

Many of Trust House’s tenants receive the benefit of a government income-related rent subsidy [IRR] that is paid to public housing landlords to cover the balance between what a tenant pays and the
market rent for the property.

Susan Esler, Elder Abuse Response Co-ordinator for Age Concern Wairarapa. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

Susan Esler, Elder Abuse Response Co-ordinator for Age Concern Wairarapa. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

This pensioner – a longstanding tenant – is not one of them.

They have a range of health problems that have required modifications to be made to the house, which is warm and dry.

They described the impact of the rent increase communications from Trust House as “just a nightmare”.

The initially proposed rent hike was completely unaffordable.

“It was more than I was actually getting in the hand, including everything [a combination of benefits and super]. I don’t know what I would have done.”

They were confused when the rent rise was paused – “I didn’t know what was happening. I knew there was more to come.”

The pensioner can afford the most recent rent uplift proposal but has found the process very stressful.

“It’s not knowing how safe you are in your home anymore. I’m worried about what they
are going to do next,” they said.

“I could get another increase … and you don’t know how much it’s going to be. You’re in constant worry the whole time.”

Susan Esler – an elder abuse response coordinator for Age Concern Wairarapa – has been called upon to help some impacted by the Trust House rent hikes.

“We try and cater for everyone that may have challenges causing them distress. I’m finding it a little hard to find a reason for the rent increases,” Esler said, describing the impact as “extremely overwhelming”.

One of her other clients had their rent increased by 100 per cent, only for it to be put “on hold”.

“That was confusing for me, and it was confusing for them as well. Because if you are supporting and trying to give people hope with how they are going to cope with that, it’s difficult,” Esler said.

“When you hear things are going to be paused, you are waiting for when it’s going to go ahead.”

A Trust House spokesperson said in January the rent increases would only affect tenants who were not receiving IRR. Then, in early February, the spokesperson explained rent hikes for non-IRR tenants would temporarily go on hold.

“Two weeks ago, we communicated to 189 of our 489 tenants our intention to increase their rent to align with market rentals and issued 60-day notices of our intention,” the spokesperson said.

“At the time, we were confident these tenants would qualify for an Income Related Rent 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. It was not our intention, and we are now going to put any rent increases on hold while we review our plans.”

Last Friday, Trust House announced the new, smaller rent hikes for about 180 non-IRR tenants.

Acting chief executive Graeme Bell said affected tenants would pay, on average, between $9 and $27 more rent a week.

“Trust House regrets the stress those [earlier] proposed rent increases caused tenants, and we committed to reviewing the rent rises when we put the rent increases on hold,” Bell said.

“We have done this as quickly as possible and have let our tenants know that there will be a much smaller rent increase.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Trust house have been doing this for DECADES. Everytime beneficiaries get a income increase Trust house up the rent by the EXACT amount. Look it up its all recorded history.

  2. Absolutely disgusting. I would love some of these people that sit on board meetings, making these decisions. Thinking , power, FOOD, phone. Dr visits. Optometrists, These are the very basic commodities that come out of one’s pension, benefits, acc, monies, that one has to juggle with what to pay first. No wonder some are inarears, worried to go to the mail box, fearing the next correspondence will be an eviction notice. Sure pay rises are imminent, sadly never enough to cover everything.
    As for treats even a movie day out, is just so out of reach for anyone at times.
    We all the public ask just one thing. Please be aware an considerate on rent rises fo the public housing. As for having a pet of some kind, which is great company for living alone folk, is only a thought as that is extra costs.
    Dog registration is just unbelievable, for what does one recieve for that expensive money. Money that would get a few luxuries that one would be happy to purchase.

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