Public Housing Roles and Responsibilities

Published: 13 November 2017

It’s important to understand the different roles that Housing New Zealand (HNZ) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) have in the provision of public housing.


  1. Applicants contact MSD on 0800 559 009 to see if they could be eligible for public housing.

  2. If they could be eligible, an appointment is made for a housing needs assessment.

  3. MSD looks at the client’s individual circumstances to determine housing need.

  4. If eligible, the applicant will be placed onto the social housing register. If the client is not eligible MSD will work with them and provide any relevant assistance to help them to move into alternative housing.

  5. Once an applicant is on the social housing register, Housing New Zealand and community housing providers are able to view the application and look to match the application to the right property in the right location.

  6. If a suitable property is found it will be offered to the applicant.

  7. When the applicant accepts the house, they become the tenant of the public housing provider. This will be either Housing New Zealand or a community housing provider.

It is important that information presented in media channels reflects the roles correctly. If not, it could continue the confusion and have a negative impact on people’s understanding of the process and their ability to correctly apply for public housing.

The Ministry of Social Development

Manages all public housing applications, including:

  • screening eligibility
  • assessing a person’s need for a house
  • managing the social housing register
  • supporting people with a serious housing need who can’t be referred immediately to a housing provider 
  • helping people find the right housing option for their situation
  • calculating and reviewing income-related rent 
  • paying income-related rent subsidies to social housing providers
  • fraud investigations and legal actions related to public housing tenancies
  • income-related rent debt recovery
  • reviewing decisions on eligibility, needs assessments and income-related rent as required 
  • reviewing individual tenant’s on-going eligibility for public housing (tenancy reviews).

Visit the Ministry of Social Development website (external link)

Housing New Zealand

Provides tenancy and property management services including:

  • matching prospective tenants to houses
  • starting and ending tenancies
  • preparing and managing tenancy agreements
  • tenant liaison and landlord duties
  • charging rent (based on income-related rent or market rent as appropriate)
  • tenant transfer
  • collecting rents, debt for overdue rents and damage charges
  • management and maintenance of houses to an agreed standard.
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