Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

19 on welfare in one state house

Occupants drawing almost $2,500 a week at top of a list of households receiving social welfare payments

Of the 18 receiving more than $100,000 each year, 11 are in the greater Auckland region and 2 in Hamilton. Photo / File
Of the 18 receiving more than $100,000 each year, 11 are in the greater Auckland region and 2 in Hamilton. Photo / File

A state house with 19 people living in it has been identified as one of the homes receiving more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded benefits each year.

The Housing New Zealand property in Manukau houses 11 children and eight adults, according to a spreadsheet of the top 50 households which receive the most social welfare payments.

The weekly rent is $87 and collectively the household is getting $2499 in benefits each week - or $132 for each individual - adding up to nearly $130,000 each year.

The figures, obtained under the Official Information Act, show that 29 of the top 50 households are residential homes and a further six belong to Housing New Zealand.

The rest are boarding houses or lodges (10), blocks of flats or units (2) and properties with multiple dwellings or subdivided sections (3).

Once those are removed from the analysis, there are 18 residential or state homes which receive more than $100,000 in benefit payments each year.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Social Development said the list was used to monitor beneficiaries with the highest claims "to ensure they are getting what they are entitled to and identify whether other supports are necessary, particularly in relation to children living in those households".

The households were monitored regularly and the list updated each quarter, she said.

Of the 18 receiving more than $100,000 each year, 11 are in the greater Auckland region and two in Hamilton. Te Puke, Huntly, Napier, Feilding and Christchurch each had one household over the six-figure threshold.

The Napier property is also a state home with a weekly rent of $36. The seven adults and two children there receive $2227 each week - an annual total of $115,804.

The top three each received more than $130,000. One of those, in Auckland, had eight adults and seven children living there and paid a weekly rent of $108 despite receiving collective benefit payments of $2559.

Each of the households receiving at least $100,000 each year in benefits had at least seven adults living there and up to 11 in one case, while the number of children varied from none to 11.

Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett first ordered a report on the top 50 households receiving benefits in 2011 as part of the Welfare Working Group. The report raised concerns about the entitlements of seven households but further investigation showed members of just three homes were receiving payments they should not have.

At the time, Ms Bennett said she was concerned about overcrowding.

"I struggle to see how 18 people living in a household with seven adults and 11 children is good for anybody," she told the Herald in 2011.

Yesterday, general manager tenancy services for Housing New Zealand, Kay Read said: "We do not house people in overcrowded accommodation."

The number of occupants was restricted according to guidelines including no more than two people per bedroom, children of a different gender, 10 years of age or older should not share a bedroom and household members 18 years and over should have a separate bedroom.

However, Ms Read conceded that "over time the composition of a family can change and as a result some state houses become overcrowded".

She said overcrowding could occur when children grew up and had children of their own but did not leave the house, or grandparents, extended family members or those with a medical condition moved in.

Ms Read said Housing New Zealand "actively manages" these overcrowded tenancies "to achieve a positive outcome".


Household budget

• $129,948 - annual benefit income
• $87 - weekly rent

- NZ Herald

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