Pensioners living in Opotiki’s Peria House flats say a $25 a week rise in rent will be a struggle to pay and will result in them having to go without.
However, the society that owns the flats says although it is unfortunate, it is inevitable following years of underinvestment by previous owners.
The 20 pensioner flats at Peria House were originally owned by the Opotiki District Council and have since been managed by several charitable trusts.
They were designed to be an affordable option for those on a fixed income but now house people in paid employment too.
The flats are now under management of Peria Society Incorporated, formerly the Opotiki Old Peoples Home Society, which also owns the Peria Village retirement village.
Most of those living in the flats said it would be a struggle to pay rent, however, none wanted to be named as they were worried they would be forced to leave and there is nowhere for them to go.
One pensioner says he's lived in his car for six months before a flat became available at Peria House. If he lost the flat, he would be back in his car.
He says the rent rise is a “hell of a shock”.
“They’ve wacked the rent up $25 a week, that’s $100 a month, well, my pension hasn’t gone up to match that.
“They told me to go see WINZ, but I doubt they’ll give me the full $25; I’ll be lucky to get an extra $5 from them. Life is a struggle anyway.”
Other pensioners say the rent rise is a “hell of a lot”, they didn’t see it coming, and they are “furious”.
However, all say they don't have a choice but to pay as they suspected other places would charge far more.
One man living in the complex says although he will be “all good for now” as he had a job, when he fully retires, the rise would make things tight.
He says when that happens, he expects he will have to move in with family, who are already crowded.
“What else can you do though, there’s an expectation you’ll be able to find more money."
All of those spoken to were pleased with the condition and maintenance of the flats.
Chair of Peria Society Gloria Lewis says there has not been much maintenance done on the flats since 2016 and the society has to do a lot of work to get them back to standard.
She says it aims to keep rents modest, but sustainable. The highest rent is $160 a week.
Lewis says the society makes no profit from the housing and the board has been part-funding it for some time, but could no longer do so.
“Quite frankly, they weren’t up to snuff.
“The reality is since we took back over, we’ve spent a lot of money on maintenance and we’re trying to keep really good quality, modest flats available.”
Work on the flats has included new vinyl, new paintwork, new carpets, security lighting and raised vegetable gardens.
The society moved tenants into alternative housing while their flats were done up.
Lewis says in the past financial year, rates also went up 14 per cent, insurance went up 39 per cent, and several of the flats had also needed to be completely refitted after renters trashed them.
The society is also looking at building a fence around the flats to improve security.
“In some years, we have spent more on maintenance than we receive in rent, without even taking rates and insurance into account.
“In the past, rents haven’t risen in line with expenses. We are trying to keep rents as reasonable as possible.”
Lewis says the society has kept the rent as low as possible, while still ensuring all expenses are covered.
The rent rise comes into effect from January.