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Communtity Law Manual | Tenancy & housing | Social housing: Tenants in state and community housing

Social housing: Tenants in state and community housing

Overview of the social housing system

The government provides subsidised rental housing through state-owned housing managed by Housing New Zealand and also through around 40 community housing organisations such as churches, iwi and housing trusts.

The 63,000 state houses managed by Housing NZ provide homes for over 184,000 people, including tenants and their families. There’s a waiting list to get into state houses – in 2018 there were over 7,700 people on the waiting list, plus their families.

Local councils also provide a range of rental housing, but this is separate from central government’s subsidised rental housing system (see below “What about local council housing?”). Government-subsidised housing and local council housing are now often referred to as “social housing”.

Which government agency does what in the social housing system?

The Ministry of Social Development (not Housing New Zealand) is responsible for:

  • assessing whether you qualify for social housing
  • deciding what your position on the waiting list will be, which will depend on your level of housing need (your “priority rating”)
  • assessing what your income-related rent will be once a place comes up for you, and reviewing your rent each year
  • reviewing at different times whether you continue to qualify for social housing once you’re in a social housing property
  • funding Housing New Zealand and community housing providers
  • managing debt and fraud related to social housing.

Your landlord will be either Housing New Zealand or a community housing provider such as a church or iwi organisation. The role of these landlords includes:

  • matching prospective tenants to particular properties
  • preparing and managing tenancy agreements
  • starting and ending tenancies
  • charging and collecting rent
  • maintaining the properties and doing repairs
  • transferring tenants between properties
  • buying, selling and developing properties.

To be able to get funding from the government, community housing providers have to be registered with the Community Housing Regulatory Authority (part of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)). The Authority’s role is to make sure that community housing providers provide good quality homes, have good tenancy management services, and are well-managed financially.

Issues to do with bonds are dealt with by Tenancy Services at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) (see “Rent, bonds and other costs” in this chapter). Disputes with your housing provider can be taken to mediation and, if necessary, to the Tenancy Tribunal, just like tenancy disputes with private landlords (see “Resolving tenancy disputes” in this chapter).

Who are “community housing providers”?

Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Act 1992, Parts 8, 10

These include church and iwi organisations and housing trusts and foundations. They have to register with the Community Housing Regulatory Authority and meet the required standards. In 2019, there were just over 40 organisations registered with the Authority. For a list of registered community housing providers, go to:

The Community Housing Regulatory Authority supervises and monitors community housing providers. It does this annually for each organisation, checking them against the performance standards they’re required to meet, and it will also investigate if there are complaints from tenants. The Authority can suspend or revoke an organisation’s registration if appropriate.

What about local council housing?

Local councils operate their own rental housing, some of which they subsidise. Wellington City Council, for example, provides around eight percent of all residential rental properties in the city. Local council social housing is separate from the system of central government funding for Housing NZ and community housing providers.

Contact your local council to find out about what council housing might be available in your area (contact details for each council are available at:

Councils often aim to provide for housing needs that aren’t met by the other main social housing providers such as Housing NZ. For example, while Housing NZ provides mainly two- and three-bedroom accommodation, Wellington City Council provides mainly bedsits and one-bedroom flats, and therefore most WCC tenants are single people and couples without children. Similarly, Christchurch City Council provides mainly one-bedroom units. Some city councils provide subsidised rental housing for older people.

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