Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says there has been significant investment by Housing New Zealand in making its Whanganui properties better places to live.

The minister was in Whanganui yesterday attending a breakfast meeting with the Whanganui Chamber of Commerce at the Quality Inn Collegiate in Liverpool St.

Mrs Bennett said Housing New Zealand (HNZ) has spent more than $31 million on maintenance in Whanganui and Manawatu in the past four years.

When asked by the Chronicle about empty HNZ properties in Whanganui, Mrs Bennett said there was a "fairly short waiting list" here and there were not always tenants waiting to move into properties.

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Mrs Bennett said tenants who were asked to move from larger properties when they no longer needed them were given plenty of support.

"The housing policy is not to provide tenants with a home for life. People move around in private rentals and a lot of HNZ tenants are paying close to market rents already.

"There is a process for moving people from HNZ properties and it can take up to 18 months.

"They may move to a smaller HNZ property if there is a suitable one available, or they can get assistance to move to a private rental."

Up to $3000 is available to assist tenants moving from HNZ to private rentals and Mrs Bennett said the money didn't have to be paid back.

"Ensuring vulnerable social housing tenants have homes that are healthy, safe, and suitable for their needs is a priority for this government," she said.

"We know when vulnerable people have appropriate, well-maintained housing, it's easier for them to get and keep jobs or training, keep their kids healthy, and they are less likely to be dependent on the state long-term."

Social housing tenants in Whanganui each pay, on average, around $90 a week in rent.

Whanganui Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Raewyn Overton-Stuart said the breakfast was positive. "Mrs Bennett touched on most of her roles and different portfolios, and congratulated Whanganui on our increase in tourism numbers."