Trust House rent rises start to bite

Feb 11, 2019 | News

The Times-Age has seen letters to a tenant in a 100sq m house putting the rent up by $15 a week in April last year and $20 a week from March this year to $288 a week.

“It’s blimmen shocking, a lot are struggling and it’s going to be soon a lot out on the street,” one person posted on social media.

Trust House Chief Executive Allan Pollard says the rises this year are for between $5 and $20 a week and the rise last year was held back.

“We haven’t done it every single year. I have been here six years and we have done it five of the six years,” he said.

He said council rates rose 4.8 per cent, and contractors like plumbers and other service providers have put their prices up by 2 per cent to 4 per cent.

“It is not something we take pleasure in. It is a necessity so we can maintain the asset base.”

Trust House purchased the government’s state-owned houses in 1999, making the community-owned charitable trust a huge landlord.

It owns 362 houses in Masterton alone — 80 of them have three bedrooms, rented out for an average of $287 a week.

“I will always argue we are community-owned. We do not have shareholders who receive dividends.

“Every piece of surplus profit we receive goes back into the asset base,” Pollard said.

“We need to be putting money back into these houses and that is what we intend to do,” he said.

Trust House says its rents are “below-market”, meaning below what private landlords charge, citing government data showing a three-bedroom property is $320 a week to rent for the lowest quarter of rentals in Masterton, and $367 for the most expensive quarter.

Trust House gets market rents for about 12 per cent of the total portfolio because the tenants are covered by the Income Related Rent Subsidy scheme.

The tenants pay 25 per cent of their net income and the landlord gets the market rental with the government paying the difference.

Most social housing covered by the government Income-Related Rent subsidy is provided by Housing New Zealand, but since April 2014 it is also available from registered social housing providers.

Pollard continues to encourage tenants to go to government agencies to see if they qualify for rental subsidies.

“Initially we really struggled to get an exemption for our tenants.

“I am delighted to announce that after all the hard work we have done lobbying government — we now have 60 IRRS tenancies.

Trust House was the first fully registered community housing provider in New Zealand.

“We have been the only successful transfer of state housing in New Zealand,” Pollard said.

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