The old saying goes that you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your relatives. You're also not able to pick your neighbours.
And the stories I've heard this week from people unfortunate enough to find tenants from hell have moved in next door would make your hair curl.
The discussion followed stories in the Herald of people who were at their wits' end because of the behaviour of their neighbours – Kāinga Ora tenants who were making the lives of other tenants and homeowners within the community unbearable with their antisocial and appalling behaviour.
Compounding the misery of living next door to someone who parties all night, and sleeps all day; who has knock 'em down, drag 'em out fights in their home and in the street; who is foul-mouthed and abusive to all those around them; who dumps their rubbish – in some cases, quite literally their crap - in the backyards of their neighbours; who has patched gang member mates threaten to kill anyone who complains – compounding all this is that Kāinga Ora, which owns and manages the homes and tenancies, will not evict even their most disruptive tenants.
It's not that they cannot – it's that they will not. In Parliament this week, Poto Williams, the Associate Minister for Housing, denied that there was a no-eviction policy mandated by the Government, but said Kāinga Ora was "committed to sustaining tenancies" to ensure vulnerable tenants with social and health problems have a "secure foundation" to get the help they need.
For context, there were more than 120 evictions from state-house tenancies between 2014 and 2017. Since Labour entered office in 2017, there have been just three evictions from state-house tenancies; none since 2018.
To quote a favourite phrase of the Prime Minister's, let me be perfectly clear. The vast majority of Kāinga Ora tenants are good people, grateful to have a roof over their heads after years of struggling in the private rental market.
They look after their families, many of them go to work, they take pride in their homes. The fact that there were only 120 evictions in three years when Kāinga Ora has more than 200,000 tenants on its books, is a testament to that.
People who have complained to me about their appalling neighbours aren't snobby Nimbys. One woman bought her property, knowing there was a state house next door, and said for the past 15 years she's had great neighbours. It's only recently that the new arrivals have made life miserable for her and the entire neighbourhood.
Kāinga Ora chief executive Andrew McKenzie came on to my show this week to defend the policy of eviction as the very last resort. He said as a nation we have said we don't want people homeless, and we don't want children living in cars. Therefore, Kāinga Ora won't make people homeless. Even if they trash a property, if they make the lives of their neighbours unbearable, they will simply be moved on to another property.
Andrew McKenzie's response to every question or point I raised is that we don't want people, especially children, living on the streets. I asked him why some of the 24,000 people on the waiting list for a home couldn't be put into one of the homes the bad tenants clearly don't respect.
He said because the very worst cases, the hardest to home, are given priority. So appalling behaviour gets you to the top of the waiting list, the worst behaviour gets you into a house, and behaving badly keeps you in that house.
Andrew McKenzie reiterated that we don't want to make people homeless. Fine. Send the worst cases back to the motels where families who would do anything for a home are waiting. The people who know how to live in a civil society get the house. The bad apples stay in the motel room.
The policy of giving people secure bases to better treat the underlying issues of their addictions and other issues is fine in theory but Andrew McKenzie couldn't tell me what their success rate was. Do people in general seem to becoming more badly behaved or is it just my perception? We've seen it with the unlawful gatherings throughout lockdown, gangs warring in plain sight and people able to terrorise neighbourhoods with impunity.
Right now, bad behaviour brings its own rewards and the law-abiding are suffering the consequences.