Crs unanimous on decision to stagger rent hike

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The Invercargill City Council building on Esk St, Invercargill.

THE Invercargill City Council (ICC) needs to help elderly tenants understand the accommodation supplement they may be eligible for, an Invercargill resident says.

At the ICC infrastructural services committee meeting on Tuesday, councillors unanimously decided to stagger the proposed 35% rental increase over two years, rather than increase it all at once or having rental income subsidised by ratepayers.

Cr Nobby Clark said his research into the Winz accommodation supplement would see most tenants meeting the eligibility criteria. If they did, it would mean they would only have to pay $6 to $8 more per week rent under the staggered increase.

With government benefits also set to increase by 3.1% on April 1, this would help with the increase, he said.

“Couple that with access to the accommodation supplement and I’m definitely in favour of option two [the staggered increase].”

Tenants had previously thought they were ineligible for the accommodation supplement as they believed the ICC was a community housing landlord rather than what it was, a private landlord.

The change of landlord status meant they would be eligible for a supplement, he said.

In a step away from usual meeting routine, all councillors methodically took their turn to debate the reasons behind their preferred option.

Cr Nigel Skelt said if councillors looked at the business model, increasing rent in one year would be the right option.

“I guess the compelling argument for me is when we had the submitters and the stories they told. One thing as a council, we have a responsibility to our ratepayer and, in particular, our people are our most important asset that we have.”

Despite rents not increasing in the past two years, other costs for tenants had, he said.

Cr Lesley Soper said the up-to-date information on the accommodation supplement would ease the mind of submitters.

The difference between the two options would not make a significant enough difference to proposed replacement of units per year under the staggered scheme compared to 3.5 under the unstaggered one.

Cr Marcus Lush said the council should not have announced the proposed rent hike prior to Christmas last year saying it “was not the measure of a good landlord”.

He believed education needed to be provided for tenants around the new heat pumps which would be installed in properties.

After the meeting, tenant Alister Webb said he was happy with the decision councillors had made.

However, he still had concerns around tenants’ understanding of the accommodation supplement.

A meeting needed to be held so tenants could get more information about the supplement.

“All tenants together with a spokesman and that’s [the supplement] got to be explained to them properly because I don’t think it was,” he said.

Council also approved the development of a housing policy for consideration and consultation alongside the next Long-term Plan.

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