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Heatley’s crocodile tears on state housing

Written By: - Date published: 1:51 pm, August 9th, 2010 - 17 comments
Categories: housing - Tags:

Phil Heatley says he fears for the future of state housing. I can’t help but agree, but the problem is that it is Heatley and his government that are making the future of state housing so dire.

They have cancelled investment in new state houses and they have declared the existing stock for sale, which will lead to former state houses becoming the worst slums in New Zealand, just as happened in the 1990s.

Now, Heatley is saying the charitable sector will have to step in where his government is failing. It’s a nonsense, no charity has the kind of money needed to replace the spending National has cut on new state houses.

Labour Housing spokesperson Moana Mackey has it dead right:

“Where do they think these philanthropic organisations with hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in social housing are, and why don’t they do it now?”

Not only is Heatley cutting spending on state housing and bleating that others will have to step in and fix his failures, he is also forcing Housing New Zealand to waste the money it does have.

National introduced a typically populist but hollow policy of kicking gang families out of state homes.As so often happens, what sounds like a good, simple idea when you first hear it, turns out to be simplistic and stupid in practice.

Last year, Housing New Zealand issued eviction notices to kick five gang partners and friends out of their state houses (awkwardly for the ‘get them crims’ brigade, the criminal charges that formed the basis the eviction notice were later dismissed). The tenants appealed and the issue is still before the courts with the Crown spending hundreds of thousands funding both sides. At least a quarter of a million dollars have been spent and the people are still in their houses.

Quarter of a million down the drain, and for what?

What is the Government’s intended outcome here? To force the gang families to leave the homes, which means them moving into different houses in different neighbourhoods – privately owned rental properties with probably even more vulnerable neighbours. So, quarter of a million dollars spent to not achieve a goal that wouldn’t actually make things better, but would just shift the problem from one neighbourhood to another.

Here’s an idea, minister. If you are serious about improving the lot of families who need housing, stop wasting money on shifting a problem around and use it to build more houses instead. And you could ask that Nice Man, Mr Key to restore the budget for new state house construction, if he isn’t too busy with giveaways for his rich mates, of course.

17 comments on “Heatley’s crocodile tears on state housing ”

  1. just saying 1

    Building industry crisis meet public housing crisis.

    ……If only…

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    …and the people are still in their houses.

    Well, at least we can be thankful for that.

    What is the Government’s intended outcome here?

    More people in dire straights that will work for tuppence and thereby help keep Jonkeys promise of lowering wages.

  3. Tigger 3

    I’m tired of this government pretending that they can divest themselves of responsibility and expect philanthropy to fill in the gaps. It can’t (we just don’t have the level of wealth or the number of civic minded rich-listers) and it won’t (in the scheme of things we don’t have a very developed culture of philantropy).

    Of course, maybe Mr Key will tell us where all that money he promised to charity has been going – into state housing? He does have a debt to repay there after all.

  4. tc 4

    I reckon the state housing situation encapsulates the hypocracy of the nat’s very accurately.

    They happily traded on the image of Sideshow being raised in a State house and Basher being given a leg up on Job Start/DPB/training allowances etc yet less than 2 years in and these are just some of the areas they’re slashing and burning expecting their mates in the private sector to pick up the slack.

    Nothing like using a ladder, claiming it was so important in your upbringing/vision of being a NZilder then promptly torching it first chance once you’re in power without even a vague idea as to what replaces it…..priceless.

    • loota 4.1

      Nothing like using a ladder, claiming it was so important in your upbringing/vision of being a NZilder then promptly torching it first chance once you’re in power without even a vague idea as to what replaces it ..priceless.

      They no longer simply pull the ladder away, they set it alight while the poor people are still on it? 😯

  5. prism 5

    The perfect answer – the gubmint buys up all the leaky homes and puts all the ‘deadbeat’ beneficiaries in them. Perfect solution.

    When I hear about the cost of state housing to the government I wonder how they calculate the return on their investment? Do they revalue to market value regularly, and then look at rent paid as percentage of that? Controlled rents would seem low return to market value. But market value only applies if there is the intention of selling and most state housing should be be staying in public hands. Also revaluing is to enable land taxes, rates etc to be based on current not historical value.

    There should be a way of valuing state housing on a set percentage, plus improvements. The rent should be enough to cover regular maintenance. It may be that the houses are actually self-supporting and paid off after some decades, if there is no market priming on valuations.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 5.1

      Prism , its the tradeoff for no capital gains tax on housing profits for homeowners.
      Instead the state funds social housing , which over the life of the house probably covers the cost.
      Its a win win

      • prism 5.1.1

        ghost.. I am a bit slow sometimes so spell it out for me. Where is the tradeoff? Are you saying that everybody gets something – the poor get state housing provided, and those that manage to get into the housing market don’t get taxed on their profits when selling. Seems a skewed viewpoint to me. The state housing is provided from everybody’s taxes. Why shouldn’t there be some, not a lot, of capital gain tax on those who are in the position to make a profit?

  6. prism 6

    Housing never seems to fire general comment. Yet it is the basis of our standard of living, major part of our savings, the place we conduct our lives, our relationships and nurture our children. When you have no house, not even a home then you are despised and isolated from society. Living rough might seem free and exciting for runaways, but there is danger as the old lady killed in the Auckland park found years ago and there is robbery, rape possible and likely drug and glue-sniffing experimentation from meeting the deranged, debased and malicious.

    State housing of a good quality that is affordable, adequate for its purpose and meeting the needs of its occupant is so important. Housing NZ isn’t a business though it needs to be run efficiently. It needs to care about people and families and have a social conscience. It helps to keep market rents from going through the roof also. It then helps keeps the prices of average houses down, as landlords won’t bid up past where they get a reasonable return in a buyer’s market. Rentals can degenerate in quality if there is a desperate search for anything affordable.

  7. Zaphod Beeblebrox 7

    I see lots of whingeing about what is wrong with State Housing but no one has even suggested how to provide a solution.

    Banks aren’t lending so nothing is getting built. The rental market is going to get tighter. HNZ has a huge stock of severely deteriorated stock that it will cost $billions to retrofit. This is the result of nearly 60 years of government neglect.

    This problem will take years to fix- yet no-one seems interested in discussing how we can get affordable housing built in a short time frame in locations in proximity to employment. I don’t care which party does it- but we need to get started now.

  8. tc 8

    ZB: gov’ts the only body who can and should fix it, we lag the developed world in our state housing % of total stock which surprised me as I thought we’d be right up there.

    You can expect more of the same from a crowd who lied their way into power and are hellbent on attacking the sectors of society they perceive as a)not voting for them and b) can’t fight back.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 8.1

      The Working party made a few suggestions based upon overseas experience re: development authorities/using public and private money and NGOs like iwi and Salvos to help administer. Key said that he would not be reducing public housing- thats something the left should hold him to.

      I’m not sure where Labour sit re:housing policy but I would have thought that those on the left would be interested in exploring new ideas, because what we have done in the past has been a spectacular failure.

      We need to integrate transport/planning/housing and employment policies to solve these problems- can’t see why Labour and the greens can’t push Key (who I suspect is scratching his head what to do) in the right direction.

  9. millsy 9

    Of course, Labour didnt really do much to alleviate the housing problem when it was in power. After buying off the state housing estates with a return to income related rents (a policy that the 1999-2008 administration was reluctant to implement straight away, if I recall – I think it took some lobbying for that to happen), the Head Girl was content to leave our state housing stock in a period of benign neglect, as they call it nowadays, throwing a couple of bones when the polls started to slip.

    All the while, presiding over a property speculation bubble that caused rents (and house prices) to skyrocket (in 2003, the cheapest rent here (NP) was $110, now it is $150), as well as prompting a decline of quality in housing across the board (charging as much as $300 for a shoebox).

    Plus New Zealanders have been forced to go begging to a prejudiced property owning class for accommodation, who take the ‘lord’ in ‘landlord’ a bit too seriously (I do acknowledge that it not the case for all property owners though) – I have heard at least 2 cases where landlords have refused to rent properties to people because they were Maori.

    In early 2008, the Listener ran an expose of the former Mangere mental hospital, being run as a slum boarding house, and the conditions in which the tenants occupiers have to live – mothers and babies alongside mental patients and ex-prisoners. And guess who was in power? Not the blue team. Of course the blue team was blamed for selling off the state housing stock, but the red team somehow forgot that it actually needed to build more.

    Im not really keen on what National has in store for the social housing sector, and I wouldnt want the Sallies or any church group any where near a state house (you would get turfed out for not showing up at Sunday’s service), but Labour never really did anything to solve our housing problems.

    Finally, this whole pulling people’s security thing seems to be a trend – temp jobs, temp welfare, now temp housing.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 9.1

      Nice summary.

      These problems go way back even before 1999. Agreed, the inaction of the last Labour government makes them as culpable as the rest- but trying to apportion blame to either side is a futile exercise.

      Seems to me that when it comes to housing (and construction in general) kiwis seem happy to settle for second best. We allowed thousands of leaky homes to be built in front of noses and we seem to accept people living in 1950s HNZ fibro shacks. Isn’t it about time the voters stand up to government- who are supposed to be taking responsibility for housing our population and make them accountable.

    • Deborah Kean 9.2

      “and I wouldnt want the Sallies or any church group any where near a state house (you would get turfed out for not showing up at Sunday’s service),”
      Er, not true, millsy, that Salvation Army are absolutely not like that! They already do as much as they can to help with housing, but they don’t have much money – much like Monte Cecilia…

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