Housing New Zealand closes offices in favour of call centre

By Jeremy Olds

People in desperate need of housing will soon have to call a national call centre rather than visit a Housing New Zealand office, a change that has angered voluntary services.

David Zussman, director of the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, a housing charity based in Auckland's Mangere and Henderson, received a letter from Housing New Zealand last week saying all calls to Housing New Zealand would be redirected to a call centre from April 10.

People in need wanting to meet Housing New Zealand staff will have to pre-arrange an appointment through an 0800 number or via their website.

"You used to be able to walk into your local office and talk to somebody. Now your first point of contact will have to be through the call centre," said Mr Zussman.

"There's been no consultation about this process; they don't seem to be interested in that."

He said the impersonal system would create problems for many people seeking help, including those who spoke English as a second language or those facing an unexpected crisis.

"Working to get outcomes for those vulnerable families is going to be more difficult."

Mr Zussman said he had arranged to meet two managers from Housing New Zealand on Tuesday to stress the serious consequences of the decision.

"Absolutely no arrangements have been made to meet the needs of those people who are no longer being assisted by Housing New Zealand."

Mr Zussman agreed with Labour housing spokesperson Annette King, who said Housing New Zealand was rationalising moves like this to become nothing more than a landlord.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley was quoted by local media as saying the changes were a part of a shift away from a "state house for life" housing policy, towards a new system designed to ensure those struggling the greatest were given priority.

- APNZ

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