Badly behaved state housing tenants who terrorise their neighbours through abuse and intimidation will face a raft of new measures designed to crack down on rotten apples.
Kāinga Ora today announced a suite of new policies to deal with the most complex and disruptive cases, which include a three-strikes system that can lead to termination of tenancies for the worst offenders.
It follows a series of horror stories from desperate neighbours whose lives had become a living hell.
A Herald investigation last year revealed harrowing cases where people living next door to antisocial Kāinga Ora clients had been subjected to prolonged abuse and intimidation.
In one case, an elderly Whangārei couple say they were subjected to death threats from a patched Black Power gang member who allegedly threatened to slit the 82-year-old man’s throat and watch him “bleed out”.
Others had been forced to move out of their homes or sell up to escape years of intimidation and threats.
One man in the Waipa district said a campaign of abuse from his Mongrel Mob-linked Kāinga Ora neighbours cost him his marriage and left him with post-traumatic-stress disorder.
The stories sparked widespread condemnation and talk of a class action against the Government on behalf of innocent victims.
Under growing pressure to take action, Public Housing Minister Poto Williams announced in November that a “sustaining tenancies” policy which critics argued banned the eviction of unruly state housing tenants was being reviewed.
Today, Kāinga Ora’s general manager national services Nick Maling said the agency was strengthening the way it managed disruptive behaviour in its homes to “better manage sustained and serious cases of disruptive behaviour that cause distress to surrounding neighbours and communities”.
Maling said the Residential Tenancies Act provided more scope to deal with unruly tenants by enabling Kāinga Ora to move disruptive customers out of communities more easily.
“One of the provisions in particular will enable Kāinga Ora to implement a warnings process, allowing us to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end a tenancy should there be three separate, and evidenced, incidents of a serious nature within a 90-day period.
“Of course, it is important to note that this course of action will only be used for the very small number of cases where severe and persistent disruptive behaviour is apparent.
“We also do not want to make a customer homeless; we will move them to another Kāinga Ora home and continue to provide them with the intensive support they need to address the causes behind their behaviour. Making people and whānau homeless creates a revolving door for housing which only sees problems compound and perpetuate.”
Maling said the agency was also putting an internal review group in place to escalate tenancy issues in the most challenging cases and review issues at a national level.
The changes were part of a broader Kāinga Ora Customer Programme that was focused on the wellbeing of state housing tenants and the communities they lived in, Maling said.
The changes included increasing the capacity of frontline teams to reduce the number of homes Kāinga staff were responsible for.
“This means our most experienced and proven teams can spend the time needed to work even more intensively with a smaller group of people where complex needs exist, and ensure they engage with any specialist support needed.”
Maling said the new measures would significantly help the agency address difficult and complex behaviour.
And despite the Herald being inundated with horror stories from around the country, Maling said such cases were a “tiny minority” and did not reflect the overwhelming majority of nearly 200,000 people living in Kāinga Ora homes who were good neighbours.
National’s housing spokeswoman Nicola Willis said today’s announcement was an “about turn” after months of denials from Kāinga Ora about the impact its no-eviction policieson good law-abiding neighbours.
“It’s taken months of awful stories from terrorised New Zealanders for the state house landlord to take this issue seriously. It has always had the power to issue these warning notices and I am disappointed it is only now intending to make use of this power.
“Kāinga Ora has repeatedly failed its legal obligations as a landlord. It has shown a callous disregard to those concerned about personal and community safety. The Minister should have acted on this much sooner. We will be watching carefully to hold the entity accountable for ensuring it backs up this new found commitment with action.”
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