Auckland Council is targeting its 1400 pensioner housing tenants to help solve its financial squeeze through an average 20 per cent rent increase.
The council's draft 10-year budget, being released for consultation tomorrow, proposes to raise revenue from pensioner rents by 37 per cent, from $6.5 million to $8.9 million, by standardising rents at 30 per cent of each tenant's gross income.
It says the net increase for tenants will average only 20 per cent if all tenants apply for accommodation subsidies from Work and Income. Increases will be capped at $15 a week in each year, phasing in the new rents for most tenants over three years.
But even with the cap, pensioner rents would increase faster than rates, which would rise 3.5 per cent a year or a cumulative 11.1 per cent over three years.
Bayswater tenant Peter Mason, 67, would see his rent rise from just $70 a week to $126.52. With accommodation supplement, he would still pay $102.36 out of his net national super of $366.94.
"It means there will be no extras of any sort. There are very few at the moment. Little things like going out to see a movie, in fact going anywhere," he said.
Mr Mason, a musician, has been unable to work since he was badly beaten 31 years ago in an attack that still affects him psychologically as well as physically.
"This extra little pressure makes a hell of a difference to me."
But a neighbour, Murray Musson, 85, may actually gain from the changes because he pays a higher rent of $117 a week for a larger flat which he shared with his wife until she died a year ago. He has the same income as Mr Mason so his rent would drop to the same $102.36 after the accommodation subsidy.
Overall, the proposed change would have the biggest impact on the North Shore, where the former North Shore City Council had not adjusted rents for many years until the new Auckland Council raised all rents by 5 per cent last year. All except 3 per cent of Shore pensioners would face rent increases, and 56 per cent would face rises of more than $30 a week.
In contrast, 42 per cent of pensioners would get rent cuts in Waitakere.
North Shore councillor Chris Darby called for a debate about the future of the merged council's social housing, including a look at how it could access the income-related rental subsidy which allows Housing NZ and community agencies to charge rents at just 25 per cent of net income and have their revenue topped up to full market rates by the Government.
The Christchurch and Hamilton councils propose to transfer pensioner housing to community agencies so they can get the income-related subsidy.
But Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chairman Mike Cohen said the Government should simply change the rules to let councils get the income-related subsidy too.