Today’s Dominion Post has a grim story about the conditions in some private rentals in Cannons Creek:
Water running down walls and gang members beating disgruntled tenants are just a few of the perils of private rentals in Cannons Creek.
Bill Hiku who is involved in the local residents and ratepayers’ association offers a particularly telling insight into how landlords get away with offering up these sub-standard conditions.
“These people can’t get into Housing New Zealand homes. They have nowhere else to live. It is a rock and a hard place.
“It becomes almost an insurmountable mountain. It’s this fear of making waves and getting kicked out.”
He even knew of a landlord who used a gang member to keep his tenants in line.
“The gang member’s role was pretty much to make sure everyone behaved and, if they didn’t, he would intimidate them.”
When one tenant complained about some work that needed to be done, the reply was a bashing at his front door.
The landlord/tenant relationship is has within it an inherent power imbalance.
For some this power imbalance has trivial consequences, a door handle that doesn’t get fixed or a lawn goes unmowed, but for those without the resources – especially financial – there is little to no meaningful “choice” in housing and under these circumstances landlords can be at their most exploitive.
There is power in unity and community and this power imbalance can be countered by collective organising and action. Communities can stand up to these landlords and their thugs but it is a long hard road to build a movement with the scale and capacity to reverse the decades of prejudice and victim blaming that permeates our culture.
If you want some evidence on that last point I refer you to some of the comments on the stuff.co.nz version of the article, though I would never recommend reading those.