GUEST BLOG: Philip Patston – Anti-social housing – it’s here but no-one’s saying it

By   /   June 3, 2018  /   11 Comments

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I don’t know about other “social” housing providers, but from my first-hand experience and the revelations of the meth myth, I know that HNZC does not have the competence or commitment to provide anything else but anti-social housing.

I must have moved into my first state house sometime in 1988, when I was 20. The woman who ran the transitional housing where I lived had a friend at the Housing Corporation, as it was known then. It took a week for me to get that house in Waterview. One week! A couple of weeks later the bathroom was modified into a wet room, and in I went.

I’ve transferred twice, once to Avondale and then to my current house in Westmere, where I’ve lived since June 1995 – 23 years. I’ve always felt grateful and privileged that I was able to move houses when my circumstances required it.

However, in a quarter of a century, a lot has changed.

Today I know that disabled people who need “social” housing (I’ll come back to the quote marks shortly), wait years to get a house. Often this is because they live with their parents or in a group home and are assessed as not having the need for housing. So if you’re disabled, 12 and reading this, sign up now. Although you will no doubt be told you’re too young.

Similarly, if you need to move and request transfer, be prepared to wait – unless you want to move out of Auckland, in which case you might be paid to get out tomorrow.

By now you might be starting to realise why I wrote “social” housing. Because there really isn’t a lot about “social” housing that’s social – in fact I’d go as far to say it’s pretty anti-social.

The recent meth myth issue has been a stark example of anti-social housing and Housing NZ (HNZC) CEO Andrew McKenzie’s abject refusal to talk to media is nothing short of, well, anti-social. But let me tell you about my experience of two years of anti-social housing I endured, and the mean-spirited incompetence that underlay it.

In 2011 a guy moved in next door to me (I live in a duplex). He seemed a nice enough guy until, one rainy day when I was out and other people were using my house for a meeting, I got a call saying my new neighbour had started screaming at my visitors because one of them had thrown a cigarette butt into the hedge. He had then started yelling homophobic slurs, obviously thinking I was home. It turned out my neighbour had a traumatic brain injury and didn’t regularly take his medication.

Thus began several months of bullying and harassment from my neighbour, whom I eventually had to trespass. He was arrested for breaching his trespass, and I had to endure him banging on the walls, throwing water over the hedge and other anti-social activities. I ended up winning a Tenancy Tribunal case against Housing NZ for loss of quiet enjoyment.

Finally HNZC transferred my neighbour and two weeks later rented the house next door to a guy who was known to Police as aggressive and violent (I had by this time built up a close relationship with my Community Constable). In a meeting with him and the HNZC General Manager Tenancy Services (GMTS), I asked her if she would have expected this second neighbour next door to a single mother. “Never,” she exclaimed!” Can you see how my being a gay wheelchair user might make me similarly vulnerable, I asked? “No, you’re a man.” Thanks for clearing that one up.

In fact in written correspondence, the GMTS said, “…the Corporation operates a social allocation system… Under this system the Corporation assesses an applicant’s housing situation and all other relevant factors… The Corporation does not consult neighbours of new tenants to determine their suitability…”

Call me a pedant but I would have thought the situation of a neighbour might be considered a relevant factor.

After several months of agitating the second tenant was relocated, but not before HNZC told him I’d complained and he threw beer cans and called me a fucking faggot. Strangely HNZC could not give me information about him due to the Privacy Act, but it seemed the Act didn’t pertain to me.

Cut to the present and I’ve had a friendly male neighbour since 2013. I am on medication for anxiety and I’ve struggled with addiction. I attribute this to PTSD from spending two years feeling unsafe in my own home.

The recent furore over David Seymour’s letter to his constituents is, I believe, something we need to take notice of. As Housing Minister Phil Twyford says, we don’t want to fuel people’s worst prejudices about people with mental ill health. We do, however, need to ensure that all residents feel safe and know how and who can support their safety in the worst scenario.

I don’t know about other “social” housing providers, but from my first-hand experience and the revelations of the meth myth, I know that HNZC does not have the competence or commitment to provide anything else but anti-social housing.

Philip Patston is one of NZ’s top diversity consultants and Managing Director of 

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11 Comments

  1. Rosemary McDonald says:

    I’ve been wondering when someone with lived experience of such a nightmarish situation would step (so to speak) forward and explain why concern over new HNZ projects is not necessarily about nimbyism.

    Does HNZ have a consumer group? An advisory panel? A residents’ committee?

    There clearly needs to be better consultation with existing tenants regarding the suitability of prospective neighbours.

    And tenancy managers capable of holistic planning.

    • Z says:

      Actually there is probably still no complaints process. Think you have to take concerns to the Ombudsman.

  2. Z says:

    “Today I know that disabled people who need “social” housing (I’ll come back to the quote marks shortly), wait years to get a house. “

    So fucking true. I see the average time they claim to house applicants (currently 64 days) and I think they must be deliberately removing disabled from that calculation because it routinely stretches for years.

    Often disabled are pressured into taking unsuitable accommodation as HNZ/social housing claim that is all they have (because its too fucking difficult to match a disability to a home apparently).

    Sorry for your PTSD. This is the first time I’ve read about these issues from someone with first hand experience but I know many, many people in our community who have gone through the same type of ordeal.

  3. Observer Tokoroa says:

    Hi Philip Patston

    I would like to say, You sure can Write ! So well.

    You see, New Zealand has a disease. It is wide spread and very difficult eradicate.

    Carriers of the disease are always and in every case Capitalists and they come with charming ideas to insulate themselves from a range of things including mentally unwell people.

    Capitalists are the most unwell people on the planet as you can see from examining John Sir Pigtail Key, and Billy night Texter English. Donald Trump and Brexitors are also Capitalist. But they insist that are not mentally ill.

    For this reason, Capitalists have made sure that nobody but Capitalists shall have housing at all. Other than their best friends. The grovellors.

    This approach has been extemely successful. And has been reinforced by bringing in very wealthy iimigrants into our country – in hundreds of unknown Thousands. So that no houses could be built.

    To make sure that the Rats (the capitalist word for ordinary decent people) should not have access to good accommodation and so that the rats should be underpaid, over rented and caked in black mould.

    This has been done to the Rats’s Hospitals too.

    I say to You be proud of the destiny Nature has chosen for you. But never – Never Never ever – praise a Capitalist or walk with a Capitalist or his woman.

    They are Foot n Mouth and gut disease – Filth

  4. Thank you for the insight, Philip. It is stories like yours that reveal a world unseen and unknown by most New Zealanders. We need to have voices like yours cut through the msm sensationalist-“news” reporting.

  5. Isabel J says:

    Re: David Seymour’s letter to his constituents:

    As a (retd) NZ Registered Psychiatric Nurse, I am no expert on hate speech, but Seymour’s letter to “his” constituents come’s close IMO.

    I also have lived more than a few years with so-called mental health challenges. In the main I have used only nutrients to support my mental health. Allopathic medical “doctors” know NOTHING about health; they know only about sickness & disease. The most effective treatment for depression is high-dose B vitamins. Read Dr Abram Hoffer’s writings (orthomolecular physician)(find at http://www.doctoryourself.com) for more enlightening information.

  6. Mike the Lefty says:

    It wasn’t anti-social when it was set up by the first Labour government under Micky Savage.
    It was so popular that when the Natzskis got back into power they did not dare scrap state housing, even though they really wanted to.
    So they settled for the next best thing – and that was to devalue it, make it second class and therefore the people that lived in it also second class.
    That is what National does.
    Similar to what it has done to Kiwibank, Kiwisaver and KiwiRail – mucked around with it, closed bits here and there and watered it down to make it a shadow of what it used to be and what it was intended to be.
    National does not do anything, it simply reacts to what Labour does.
    National’s so-called “achievements” are based on solely on wealth inequality, exploitation, environmental destruction and creative accounting.
    National doesn’t give a monkeys about anyone or anything outside its own little political circle. It thrives on division and disunity.

  7. Marc says:

    I fear issues such as this, with next door neighbours, are not exclusive to Housing NZ dwellings. If you rent on the private market, a landlord will hardly consult with neighbouring property owners to seek their input into whether a prospective new tenant may be considered ‘suitable’ by them.

    There are so many units, apartment blocks and the likes, where people live wall to wall, and upstairs and downstairs, where individual units may be owned by many different landlords, who may hardly ever speak to each other, possibly would not even know each other.

    Actually, Housing NZ could have an advantage there, owning larger dwelling structures and properties, as ONE landlord, thus being able to better consider how neighbours may get on with each other.

    They do definitely have rules, and a complaints process, whether it always works is another question, and depends much on the property manager in charge.

    But without doubt, the ‘social’ is a concept that has long gone out the window, certainly from the late 1990s on, where the Nats made sure that state housing is more treated along market criteria and rules.

    • Z says:

      It would be highly unlikely a private landlord would consider installing a violent, socially obnoxious tenant.

      The risk of this happening is almost exclusively social housing, and they would be fully aware of the risks having access to supporting documentation.

  8. Michelle says:

    We need to take a close look at the people currently running HNZ cause they are probably gnats cronies and it they are we need to get rid of them asap. I noticed pull- the- benefit has already thrown some under the bus she is very good at that.