Northland MP, Matt King

No evictions for neighbours ‘from hell’

by Andy Bryenton

While thousands of families around New Zealand wait for housing amid the nation’s growing accommodation crisis, Northland MP Matt King stands by his recent comments in this publication, reiterating that Housing New Zealand management is making no move to evict tenants who are abusing the system and their neighbours.

“I have had constituents — older people, older women, crying, fearing for their lives. We have had meetings with the people who can make the call.

We have hit a brick wall,” says the Member of Parliament.

King said that he had been advised that there is a ‘no eviction’ policy in place. It means that even the most violent tenants, or those involved in the illicit drug trade, are free to remain in social housing.

“They know that they’re not going to be kicked out. These are ‘neighbours from hell’,” he says, referencing the documentary television series of the same name.

It’s a problem Mr King says affects only a few properties in Dargaville, but with a disproportionate impact. Not only because police have logged multiple complaints at each address, but also a growing number of non-criminal, financially challenged Kiwis are waiting for state housing. The figure stands at more than 14,500, with many elderly and sick people or families with young children on the list. That’s up from 13,996 last September.

In a statement in 2019, Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford, speaking on this issue for the government, insisted that there was not a ‘no eviction’ policy in place at Housing NZ.

“However, ending the tenancies of vulnerable people, including children, places them in an even more vulnerable situation.

“That’s why Housing NZ takes a ‘sustaining tenancies’ approach, which involves taking all reasonable steps to support tenants and their families to stay in their homes for as long as they need them. Eviction is a last resort.”

Nevertheless, statistics released last year to the media under the Official Information Act reveal that while in 2014/2015 evictions enacted by HNZ ran to approximately 40 a year, during 2017 the figure fell to nine. In 2018, for all of New Zealand, there was only one. Mr King agrees that eviction is indeed the last resort, but one, which must be reached in some circumstances. Circumstances he says are currently in effect in Dargaville, Kerikeri and other towns in his constituency. His position is supported by statistics such as this; in 2018, Hawke’s Bay authorities logged 578 complaints related to HNZ ‘problem tenants’ with no eviction enacted.

“Meanwhile, people are being terrorised. It’s unacceptable.”