Central government has abandoned the Rangitikei district as far as meeting the increasing need for housing vulnerable tenants, a council manager says.

The comment comes after Rangitikei District Council lifted the rent it charges for community housing to market rates — the first increase in 12 years.

But it did so knowing the government accommodation supplement would largely cover the increase.

"Central government has really let us down in this area," said the strategy and community planning manager Blair Jamieson.

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"There's no Housing New Zealand stock.

"For those who are in a vulnerable situation, council is the only provider. We're in a space now where we have to be because of central government not being in it.

"We need to get money for it, so how we've gone about that is moving rent up, doing so in a way that really considers the tenants first and foremost."

The Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive of housing, Scott Gallacher, disputed Jamieson's comments there was no Housing NZ stock in the area.

"There are 51 Housing New Zealand rental properties in the Rangitikei district, and nine applicants for public housing on the Housing Register," he said, adding that most applicants on the register were already in some form of housing.

Gallacher said councils played a vital role in housing and supporting vulnerable people and the Rangitikei District Council was no exception.

The ministry would welcome further opportunity to work with the council and other parties, such as developers, non-government organisations and housing providers, "to fund and deliver new housing supply in the region to help those in need".

"Once we connect with someone, we can get into action right away to support them."
The council owns 72 small flats, mostly one bedroom with some "double-sized flats" scattered throughout Marton, Bulls, Ratana and Taihape.

A single superannuitant will now pay $150 per week instead of $100; someone under 65 will pay $150 instead of $110; and couples rent rises from $130 to $180.

"Although it's gone up $50, the assessment had been that all the tenants here would qualify for [Ministry of Social Development] accommodation supplement because it's now above $100," Jamieson said.

"The Government will contribute $35 a week accommodation supplement which means that there's only $15 shortfall for our tenants.

"What we've done about that is council has said we will pay that difference by way of power subsidy — we'll put back into their power accounts that $15 difference."

The $15 subsidy would be paid for the first year and in the second year it would drop to $7.50.

He said tenants would get further discounts on power by signing up with Genesis with which the council had a deal for cheaper power in general.

Jamieson said the council had increased rent so improvements could be made to the flats to meet changes to the Residential Tenancies Act coming into force from April next year.

The Act requires rentals include heating, curtains and insulation where practical.
Ensuring those improvements were in place by November this year was a priority.
Overall, the picture was better for tenants, he maintained.

"You consider the $35 accommodation supplement, $15 from us, and a potential discounted rate of power ... the tenants should be in a better situation than prior to the rent going up."

With the demand for social housing, the council was looking at ways to provide more houses for people in need.

The community housing changes will be discussed this morning at the council assets and infrastructure meeting.

The Ministry of Social Development urged anyone needing help with housing costs to call them on 0800 559 009 or visit Work and Income.