The other day on Red Alert, Chris Hipkins related an interesting story about how National’s last round of State House sales went awry:
Recently I went to visit a state house tenant in their home to talk about some problems they had been having with Housing New Zealand. They wanted their home heating and insulation improved and when I looked at the house I could see why. It was well cared for, but it was cold. I talked to Housing NZ and the situation was sorted out.
While I was in that particular street I was shocked by the state of some of the houses. There was a block of semi-detached houses that looked like it hadn’t been painted or cleaned in decades. I noted down the address and raised that with Housing NZ too.
Turns out it the block of houses in question were former state houses. Back in the 1990s they had been sold to their tenants. The tenants, unable to afford the regular repayments on the mortgage, had sold them off to a private investor who has effectively become a slum landlord.
Walking around that part of the electorate a bit more I soon became aware that the houses in worst condition were the ones owned by private landlords. Some were ex-HCNZ and some were ex-council. The Housing NZ homes weren’t that flash, but the basic maintenance had been done.
On the surface of it the idea that state house tenants can buy their own homes may seem like a nice one but the reality is a little different. How many of the state houses that Phil Heatley is currently hocking off are going to end up in the hands of these private slum landlords?
When Heatley announced his new sales plans, I suggested some measures to help stop them becoming owned by slum landlords – like putting terms in the title that they couldn’t be rented out. Hipkins’ story suggests even that wouldn’t be enough to stop currently well-maintained State Houses falling into disrepair if they’re sold.