Press Release – New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations
In the light of massive increases in the housing perk that have been announced for Members of Parliament, students are calling attention to the fact that the support that many students get for housing costs has not increased in ten years.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations is calling for the lifting of the restriction which has prevented student support from keeping pace with rising housing costs.
A student allowance includes an element for help with rent, but it is calculated on a different basis than all other low income New Zealanders – and considerably different from what MPs are entitled to. Housing support for students is capped at a maximum of $40 per week, a cap introduced in 2001. The Accommodation Supplement – that all low income New Zealanders who are not students are entitled to – provides support of up to $145 per week if you live in certain parts of Auckland, and $100 per week if you live in other expensive locations such as Wellington or Hamilton.
Support for students with housing costs is set at 50% of average rental costs in a particular location above $40 per week, with a maximum payment of $40. This has been in place since 2001. This cap was hit in 2005 in Wellington. In Christchurch the cap was hit in 2008 and while rents have rocketed since the earthquake – and are now significantly above the national average – support has been stuck at a level of increasing insignificance.
“It’s all very well for Steven Joyce to claim, as he does, that the Student Support System in New Zealand is ‘about right’ but this glaring failure to keep pace with rising costs means that students getting allowances, who by definition cannot get support from their parents, simply cannot afford to study. In Wellington and Auckland in particular, the total student support available – the allowance plus the accommodation benefit – is less than the average rent”, said Daniel Haines, NZUSA President.
“The fact is, every other low-income New Zealander – plus MPs – qualifies for rent assistance based on the cost of their rent, but students don’t”, said Haines.
“Students deserve a rate of support that increases as their costs increase. MPs get increases themselves, and they should give increases to us. At the very least, the cap on the support for rent costs needs to be adjusted upwards to reflect the reality of increasing rents.”
NZUSA’s research is based on comparing WINZ data of accommodation benefit for selected residential areas with the rent per room of a three-bedroom house in an area of town that students live in, using Department of Building and Housing (now part of MBIE) data, as reported on a quarterly basis.
Information on Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch can be available at: http://bit.ly/mpsgivetothemselves. Data on other regions also available.