COMMUNITY WELLBEING03/08/18

Thirty years ago, my voluntary organisation was established on the basis of community wellbeing. The main task for achievement is housing and the social resolution of housing issues became our practical advocacy.

In my experience, we have discovered that there seems to be a struggle between agents among landlords and tenants. There is also influence in Tenancy Services including the tribunal, but it depends on whom you deal with.

While our voluntary organisation is independent, we are somewhat caught up in this political struggle. It does not make sense when the landlord is the state the same time housing stock is the object of exploitation.

It's abuse of state resources when social needs of citizens are compromised by the politics of the agency in place. The service should never involve with such political agenda, but if so then the change of government must also change the personnel of the public service accordingly.

And here we practically experience in real life depressions of social political developments where on the sunny side is booming and at the same time the shaded side is busting.

Anyway, most of my clients were single parents among those enduring long-term ailments are excluded from mainstream services including HNZC.

Those enduring mental health issues are frequent clients of both housing and health services. So we have learned to work cooperatively with other community agencies to achieve our goals.

Thirty years ago, those labelled anti-social tenants were simply dumbed on the street and they roamed from one place to another. But someone has to house them, usually the Mission. You would also have noticed that some who may have criminal records associate with this crowd because they too are rejected from access to social services.

Thanks to the Minister of Housing that HNZC is now no longer a police criminal unit; I hope! It's a bit like some religions; those who need help are the ones mostly rejected by the very services established for them.

However in practice, we have developed a social rehabilitation program helping residents and tenants resolve their housing issues. And this covers budgeting; neighbourhood resolutions; consultations with landlords and agencies including Tenancy Services. it is building confidence and responsibility.

One of the most common complaint was against housing agents. Tenants especially single parents felt intimidated by the authoritative and condescending approach. Many complaints were based on Maintenance and Repair but merely because of unhappy relations with the agent. I've seen houses left vandalised and abandoned, but there is two sides to a story.

You see, the social relations of struggles is generated by extraneous activities surrounding the house. Many unresolved issues around the house are accumulated until surfaced in a major setback. Moreover, everyone in the house including children become victims of housing issues. And there we couldn't stressed prevention of family violence enough around the achievement of housing tasks.

You can usually have a fair idea of the state of a relationship from the condition of the house. And some issues have driven some tenants to unhealthy state of health and wellbeing. A series of complaints could be ongoing until someone has either left or when a tenancy is vacated.

Some tenants are vulnerable and have found the Tribunal Service intimidating. They are not informed of their right to complain that is protected by the Act. Given the state of the current housing crisis, tenants would not complain to hold on to the tenancy. They will and have put up with the landlords failure to maintain the tenancy up to required standards.

However, when housing issues are resolved, tenants are happy. You see, many happy families in the community give rise to somewhat achievement of wellbeing. Then no one would make a complaint about housing.

Our group is a not for profit organisation where clients establish a depending relationship to ensure ongoing clientele. Instead, we encourage tenants to be proactive about the issues affecting their lives. When the tenant is comfortable dealing with issues that he/she no longer needs our advocacy. In fact, indicators of success is when complaints are fewer.

Our resolve follows guidelines of the RTA 1986 Act and tenants understand when their complaints are outside the provisions of the Act.

There are other issues including traffic; environmental pollution; shops; reserves or areas where young people hang out.

Some communities have action groups to organise activities such as tree planting, beach cleaning and gardening, etc. These activities help bring the community closer.

However, some residents have mixed ideas about these community activities; they claim they pay rates and rents and expect the authority to maintain public facilities. But the authority somehow spends millions upgrading some areas and never others. So some tenants just let the place run down.

One social phenomenon we witnessed in neighbourhood behaviour is related to the weather. During summer months, neighbours usually stay out late around a BBQ and a few drinks. They get carried away until late. The next day follows neighbour's complaints about neighbourhood noise.

During winter months, folks complain a lot about maintenance and repair of leaks around windows, doors and the roof. It becomes a seasonal occasion among the old folks.

And our seasonal tasks follow summer months of organising family conferences involving Neighbourhood Watch or the Police. During winter, its doctor's certificates in support of ailing conditions prompting upgrade or repairs.

The politicalisation of housing relations adds unnecessary issues to the tenancy. In some cases, the whole family feel the pressure from the landlord. Moreover, this pressure becomes a trigger for disputes and in extreme, separation. The weakest links in the family suffer the most.

Having a reasonable income helps families move on but other social problems including addictions tend to stagnate them in lower socio economic sectors and poor housing.