​Human Rights Commission points to insecure rentals in New Zealand

Dec 11, 2017 | Reports

Reported by Stuff, the Human Rights Commission report that the private rental market is forcing low-income Kiwis to move too often.In their briefing to incoming Justice Minister Andrew Little the Human Rights Commission (HRC) point to housing as a serious human rights issue that is likely stopping New Zealand meet its international obligations to uphold human rights.

They suggest an increase in secure social housing to combat New Zealand’s rate of “residential mobility” – where almost one in five Kiwis move every year. This is the highest rate of moving in the Western World, and close to twice the rate in the UK.

Most of this moving occurs in the private rental market, and many of the people moving are part of low-income families.

“Families with children, particularly one-parent and Māori and Pacific families, experience much higher levels of discrimination in the private rental market,” HRC officials write in their briefing.

Housing in general had developed into a “major human rights issue with multiple effects on people’s health and wellbeing,” particularly children.

A 2015 Government report showed 19.6 per cent of people moved every year. Almost one in three children in low income families moved early in their lives, compared to approximately one in five children in high income families.

The HRC note that current rental laws allow landlords to kick tenants out without cause and does not impose any responsibility on a landlord on vulnerable families.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford has promised new legislation by the end of the 2018 that would get rid of no-cause terminations and limit rent increases to once per year.

But the HRC suggest more than just new rental laws: officials within the document suggest that for the most vulnerable the security provided by state housing is the best option.

The new Government has promised to stop the state-house sell off and build at least 1000 new state homes a year.

A separate briefing on the state housing situation released on Thursday suggested the amount of state homes already in the pipeline was not enough to meet current demand, with close to 6000 eligible families waiting for state homes as of September 2017, up 72 per cent over the previous two years.

In the view of the HRC, the problems in housing were so serious that New Zealand would need to seriously change things in order to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development goal 11: that all people have access to safe adequate and affordable housing by 2030.

New Zealand had signed up for this human rights commitment but was not yet on its way to meeting it.

Twyford has met with HRC since becoming entering Government and said there was plenty of crossover between their view and his.

“I really welcome his advocacy for a rights-based approach to housing. The coalition government believes that housing is a basic human right and we should treat it as such.”

The previous Housing Minister Nick Smith rejected criticism of his record in office on Thursday.

“What we do know is that in my period as Minister we grew the number of houses being built in New Zealand from 14,000 per year to 31,000 per year,” Smith said.

“I think you’ve got a new Government that is trying to make it look as bad as possible.”

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