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The selective empathy of Key’s callous government

Written By: - Date published: 9:54 am, May 12th, 2014 - 21 comments
Categories: class war, greens, housing, labour, mana-party, same old national - Tags:

Last night 3 News picked up on the information provided from an OIA request by Phil Tywford.  It shows that Key’s government is planning to sell off a significant number of state houses in provincial locations.  Many of these houses have been empty for way too long.  The 3 News report hints that may be because there have been plans for a while to sell them off.

National government state house sales Tamaki Housing Group

The 3 News report focused on Tither street in Huntly, where the remaining 6 state houses look likely to be sold off to private enterprise. 8 state houses in the street have alreadybeen  sold.  The tenants are very unhappy at the prospect.

Streets like Tither St in Huntly, 40 kilometres north of Hamilton, will be part of a government plan to sell almost two-thirds of its properties in the north Waikato over the next 10 years.

Nick Smith claims that the information uncovered by Twyford is out of date.  Nevertheless, 3 News claims there are 2800 empty state houses across NZ.  Smith claims that:

“The Government is absolutely committed to providing social housing into the future,”

That is a slippery response, because state housing is only one kind of social housing.  Other forms include those run by non-government entities.  The 2010 report for the NZ government, “Home and Housed: A Vision for Social housing in New Zealand“, spells out the government’s approach.  It is clear the aim is to cut back on state housing and move towards other forms of social housing.  On pp.4-5, it is laid out:

Underpinning this vision are four imperatives:

1. Empowering HNZC to focus on the ‘high needs’ sector

2. Develop third-party participation

3. Instigate initiatives across the broader housing spectrum

4. Clarifying sector accountabilities and delivery expectations.

[…]

These strategies include:

Curtailing the Crown’s involvement as sole provider

Diversifying the funding of social housing by increasing private-sector (i.e.

Non-Government Organisation) participation

Driving for more efficiency and impact in housing subsidies.

Meanwhile, those already struggling to find affordable housing of a standard most Kiwis would expect, are being put under further pressure by Auckland Council.  Yesterday, Josh Fagan reported on Stuff.  These are people that have already been failed by government provisions.  People who would benefit from state housing.

Western Park Village, in Ranui, West Auckland, has been ordered by Auckland Council to apply for permanent status consent for 23 long-term tenants who were no longer classified as “transient”. Owner Darryll Heaven said the new guideline was “complete nonsense” and residents only stayed for extended periods because they had nowhere else to go.

He said the park was home to a lot of disenfranchised and desperate people, including families who have been kicked out of government housing and were effectively “un-houseable“.

This caravan park is in Minister Paula Bennett’s electorate. Rather than work with her government on making more suitable, secure and stable forms of housing for such people, Bennett disguised her callous approach with shallow words of empathy.

Social development minister Paula Bennett said living in a caravan or campground was defined by the ministry as temporary accommodation. But, she added that “didn’t necessarily mean that person or family has an overall serious housing need”.

Meanwhile she aims to do little that is helpful:

Bennett said the current situation was a matter for the Auckland Council and Western Park.

According to Massey University researcher Christina Severinsen, thousand of Kiwis live in similar unstable situations across NZ because there is no other affordable accommodation available to them. She is reported as saying that,

The danger for people in campgrounds or caravan parks, she said, was that if they were evicted there were “very few places for them to go”.

“Often people move on to staying in cars, boarding houses, rough sleeping and sharing housing with other families. We need investment in housing stock that low-income families can afford.”

In contrast, Bennett is quick to step up and offer support for a high profile TV actress: in so doing the minister gets herself a bit of cheap public promotion.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has swung behind embattledShortland Street star Teuila Blakely, under siege over a leaked sex tape.

A selected quote from Bennett is provided in big letters with the article:


This isn’t what defines her, what defines her
is the kindness and warmth shown throughout
her life as a mother, daughter and friend.

                       Paula Bennett, Social Development Minister

Where is similar support for all the kind and warm people who struggle to find affordable housing, while Bennett’s fellow ministers and PM work to make life even tougher for them?

Nick Smith and endangerred housing

Green Party policy is to increase  state housing by at least 3000 units per year in the next 3 years.

Mana Party Policy: 20,000 more state houses in the next 2 years.

In a recent comment on the Standard, Phil Twyford indicated Labour will be addressing the state housing issue before the election.

21 comments on “The selective empathy of Key’s callous government”

  1. tc 1

    How many have been lost in akl as they transfer public wealth to private hands in places like Glen Innes and sandringham done under the PPP banner.

    Forget the rehtoric and BS from shonky, double dipton, Nicked Smithers etc and what do the numbers say right here and now about total dwellings available for those in need bothe where there is work and in rural where there is alot less opportunity to work.

    Inconvenient facts need to keep meeting Govt Spin rapidly and rammed home.

    “The Government is absolutely committed to providing social housing into the future…” weasel words as into the future is nat speak for someone else’s problem such as a govt that actually cares.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    High demand is good for business.

    • aerobubble 2.1

      Cavaet. High demand shrinking supply is destabilizing.

      Take the GFC, printed money chasing fewer falling priced assets.

      Oil companies assets over valued in a world switch out of carbon.

      Its this notion that “we can’t have too much of a good thing” that plagues the right and their economists, they just wont regard it with any conscious.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    It is shameful the way our social security system is now looked down upon and the coppers lined up against users of a once mighty state resource as in Glen Innes.

    One thing is for sure, thousands more state houses/apartments need to be built. Even the ShonKey loving aspirational “tradies” and builders might have to support this. Stable affordable rentals would let more people just get on with enjoying life rather than trapped by the banks in the “own your own place” ratrace or gouging landlords.

    State houses should be for life if desired, and to match modern life trends transferable and swappable for education, work or holidays between tenants in different suburbs or regions by agreement.

    With modular factory construction (heh, no more rimu timber) all sorts of layout and people combinations are easily possible unlike earlier iterations of the standard design plonked on a generous section. The nats portray this thing about aging couples in huge 4 bedroom homes etc. which is basically horseshit. In more rural areas shared gardens could be set up and smaller versions in the cities. Mini communities could be built with individual units for private space and shared utility spaces. Changing family sizes–add or subtract a module.

    If you agree go to the next Glen Innes action and offer support.

    • Tracey 3.1

      once the new fletchers town was built between st johns and glen innes, developer demand for more land was a matter of time… so glen innes state homes became more attractive.

  4. captain hook 4

    this government is a government of weasels. it goes without saying. it really hurts them when they have to do something for somebody else. they just cant handle it.

  5. Tracey 5

    is ranui in bennetts current electorate or upper harbour, or in the pm electorate where her last community meeting was held?

    is the actress a personal friend of obe of bennetts children or a child of one of her friends.

    • karol 5.1

      Ranui is currently in Bennett’s Waitakere electorate.

      Wikipedia.

      Electorate boundary includes Ranui.

      The Upper Harbour electorate doesn’t come into being until this year’s election.

      The linked article only mentions Bennett as a high profile friend of the actress. Which could mean anything. Didn’t know that about Bennett and/or her children being close personal friends.

      • Tracey 5.1.1

        its the unseemly haste with which she has moved her focus from her current employers, the people of waitakere, to the wealthy of upper harbour and hobsonville.

  6. Tracey 6

    lets start calling it what it is

    nationals homeless policy

    in five and ten years time watch as nz streets become more crowded with people begging and sleeping on benches.

    • fisiani 6.1

      On the contrary National policy is to move an elderly couple from the 3 bedroom state house where they brought up their five children to a one bedroom state house so that the family with five children in a Mangere garage can move into the vacated 3 bedroom home.

  7. Mary 7

    Housing NZ’s criteria already excludes “moderate need”. This has been the case for a while. It’s part of an overall plan to pull out of housing altogether and is happening by stealth. Like in many areas, the government knows it can’t just do what it wants straight away especially when it’s about removing things that represent deeply held values. Part of the by-stealth approach to getting out of housing is to stir up resentment against “all this free housing for life malarkey”. The effect of course is that the policy behind public housing shifts from providing a home to being an emergency housing provider only. There’s already the move towards shifting delivery on to the community then add the halting of ongoing maintenance programmes then like magic it’s less than a short step to pulling out altogether. This is Nact’s great plan and the Left needs to challenge the government directly on it.

    • Tracey 7.1

      the homeless policy, serving the developers of nz since 2008

      • Mary 7.1.1

        An effective opposition would nail the government on what it’s doing and make it own up to its agenda. Key et al only get away with what it does because nobody puts the dishonest tactics and intended objective squarely to the government and in the right forum. We just plod along and every now and then we wake up to find one more thing gone.

  8. thats a bit rough on fisiani it made perfect sense to me….this blog needs comments like that

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 8.1

      Nah it only makes sense from a neo-iberal right-wing paradigm and even then I have my doubts.

      Part of the reason for security of tenure for life was that people would treat their house as their own and look after it.

      They would do much of the maintenance themselves, put in gardens, raise their families, take in nieces and nephews to give parents relief, become part of the local community and so on.

      Most state house tenants did, and still do this.

      Many of those “old people” have invested heaps of time and effort into those homes and communities.

      As someone who grew up in a state house and in a state housing area I know my own parents did that and so did many many others. From wall-papering to painting to clearing the gutters and so on.

      People are much less inclined to do that for a private landlord, particularly ones charging such high rents.

      Of course what is happening with the reduction in state housing is that rather than be forced into the private rental market, which they can’t afford, many are opting out of the housing market. There’s plenty of landlords who can’t rent their properties – it’s not just housing NZ properties sitting empty in many towns.

      The first efforts to subsidise private landlords was the opening up of Accommodation Supplement to people not on benefit. This helped for a while until landlords put rents up every-time the accommodation supplement rates were increased. This to some extent was manageable for working people who had faux wage increases via tax cuts.

      Those on benefit get no increase at all from tax cuts and so did not get the same comparative advantage.

      Tax breaks via LAQC’s etc further subsidised landlords.

      Both these things helped drive prices up as did baby boomers with surplus income and immigration.

      Adding the lowest paid and the poor into the demand mix can only be seen as cruel and unusual punishment.

      This was done in four ways:
      1. Not building sufficient state housing to keep up with population growth and decreasing relative wages (remember 70% of GDP used to be paid out in wages – it’s now less than 30% from the last figures I’ve seen).
      2. Selling off and reducing existing housing stock
      3. Hiding housing need by toughening the criteria so people became invisible. Part of this was also reducing access to HNZ offices and staff so it was harder to make contact as well.
      4. Pushing stories about bad tenants, bludgers, long term tenants, etc to continue the right wing notion of these people are stealing off you.

      If state housing levels had been maintained as they should have been then this notion of people needing to get out so some “more deserving” person can get in would not exist in the way this is being expressed.

      So the next step to help the private sector landlords pay their inflated mortgages is to subsidise them further via “social housing”. Instead of paying and maintaining state housing even bigger subsidies will now be paid to private landlords, community groups – who will eventually pay the price through reduced funding elsewhere – and Iwi who it will possibly restrict the access to this housing to their own people or at least prioritise them.

      Of course pushing more people into the housing market will further push rents up meaning all those people whinging about paying for state housing in their taxes will simply pay through higher prices and higher rents simply transferring their $ to the banks and existing landlords.

      Somehow they delude themselves that transferring their earnings to interest and private profit is a good thing while transferring money to the government to provide support for their fellow citizens is a bad thing.

    • Will@Welly 8.2

      Slippery does, as slippery do. Another disciple of the right, trolling around.
      Part of the “sell off” of state housing is theoretically to encourage charitable agencies such as the Salvation Army to step in to fill the gap. I’ve talked to a couple privately here in Wellington, and guess what, they don’t have the money. Surprise, surprise. While they would be keen to help out if someone gave them the houses, they don’t want to be landlords. That is not their focus. Too much conflict of interest.
      Also, there was a report – pretty sure it was on Nat. Radio, but can’t recall the name – that an agency from overseas was keen to come in and invest in the building and administration of “state houses”. I just wanted to cry. This is not my country.
      This government is selling off the integrity, the self-respect and dignity of ordinary New Zealanders.

      • karol 8.2.1

        Yes, the possible selling of state houses to some overseas entities was mentioned in news articles that I cited in my April post on the government asset stripping state housing.

        It was mentioned in this Simon Collins article It was revealed by emails/letters accessed through a Phil Twyford OIA request.

        The documents also reveal that Housing NZ plans to raise $383 million in the three years to June 2016 by selling or leasing state houses to community and iwi groups and “the possible introduction of third party equity via possible overseas providers”.

        This is the first time anyone has mentioned foreign companies being involved in planned state house sales, and Mr Twyford said it might point to possible public/private partnerships to redevelop state housing.

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