(photo Murray Wilson/Fairfax NZ)
Protesters waved placards outside the Palmerston North City Library on Tuesday, and plan to return on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s housing affordability measure, released this month, puts Manawatu/Whanganui as the third least affordable places to rent, with 77 per cent of renters paying unaffordable levels of rent.
To meet MBIE’s national affordability benchmark, a household should have at least $1391 for a family of four, or $993 for a childless couple, left over after all housing costs are paid.
At the same time, there were 193 applications on Housing New Zealand’s Palmerston North waiting list this March, compared to 44 a year ago.
Manawatu Tenants’ Union researcher Daniel Ryland said he hoped more people would join their protest because action and pressure on both issues was desperately needed.
Ryland said the two issues were closely related, as people stuck on the housing waiting list still had to find a place to live.
“We need to do more, so vulnerable people aren’t forced to pay a lot more than they can afford for rent because they are desperate.”
More social housing would help ease pressure on rents, but the Government had focused most of its planned new state housing on Auckland and very little on the regions, he said.
“They’ve talked about 34,000 new state homes in Auckland, and that’s about it.
“And given that they need at least 40,000 there to meet demand, even that’s a little short.”
Housing New Zealand tenant Kathleen Stephens said the Government needed to do a lot of work to reverse the loss of state houses over the past eight years.
Everyone stuck on the waiting list, or who ended up homeless because there wasn’t enough state homes, contributed to society when given a chance, she said.
“These are people, not just some trash to be thrown away.”
Palmerston North Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said rent affordability was often overlooked in the housing debate, but Labour would be announcing policies focused on that issue before the election to work alongside their social housing plans.
“We need to take renters into consideration as well. With fewer people buying their own home, and having to rent for longer periods, renter needs have to be as big a priority as buyer needs.”