Community Action Nelson say children’s education, mental and physical health are becoming more acutely affected by the housing crisis. Photo: File.

Fears for children amid short-term tenancies

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A Nelson community group are calling on the Labour-led coalition to be a “government with guts” as they say children’s education, mental and physical health are becoming more acutely affected by the housing crisis.

Community Action Nelson (CAN) spokesperson Mary Ellen O’Connor says the impact on children’s education is a rising concern, so the group has written to Minister of Housing and Urban Development Megan Woods asking them to be a “government with guts”.

“Right now, it’s the time of year when tenants are given notice they have to move, to free up homes for top dollar rentals over the lucrative summer season,” says Mary Ellen.

“Agencies are telling us more and more tenancies are only for a six-month period. This means kids who are often already disadvantaged have to keep shifting schools with all the challenges that presents for them and their parents and teachers.”

According to the Massey Home Affordability Index to June 2019, Tasman district is the second least affordable region in New Zealand after Auckland, with Nelson in third place.

Mary Ellen says there are numerous factors, alongside tourism, that contributed to Nelson’s high house prices and high rents.

“We’ve got ‘sunshine wages’ and seasonal employment, an influx of wealthy retirees and lifestylers, we’re a refugee destination and a student town and we have an historically higher number of ex-psychiatric patients in community accommodation.”

Nelson also has a low proportion of state houses, with 734, and councils have very limited involvement in social housing.

“This means that 90 per cent of the rentals in Nelson/Tasman are privately owned, so they are almost completely unregulated; and a lot of the stock is not only overpriced, but in very poor condition.”

CAN is asking the minister to reconsider three of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group‘s recommendations regarding housing for this region.

  • Urgently expand and accelerate Government efforts to substantially increase public housing on an industrial scale and continue urgent efforts to end homelessness.
  • Increase the capacity of third-sector, community-based housing providers such as the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust.
  • Subsidise housing costs for people on low incomes (in addition to raising main benefit rates to provide an adequate income) and ensure the combination of changes to housing support and abatement rates make households better off.

On the plus side, Mary Ellen says the two local councils had recently put considerable energy into forging the Nelson-Tasman Future Development Strategy.