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Polity: Newsflash: Houses are assets

Written By: - Date published: 8:23 pm, November 3rd, 2014 - 33 comments
Categories: housing - Tags: , ,

polity_square_for_lynnReposted from Polity.

Prime Minister John Key, in his capacity as Prime Minister, promised no asset sales this term in the run up to the last election. But now:

  1. The government owns lots of houses. They are a government “asset.”
  2. The government intends to give thousands of those houses to private actors, in exchange for cash. That is a “sale.”
  3. No amount of dancing on the head of a pin makes this policy anything other than an “asset sale.”

New Zealanders did not sign up for this. It was never mentioned int he election campaign, although clearly their work was well advanced. It is cynical, and it is arrogant. The country deserves better.

33 comments on “Polity: Newsflash: Houses are assets”

  1. You just have to wonder how this is even being spun into a question, but I guess that’s the combination of kneejerk Dirty Politics and third-term arrogance for you.

  2. fisiani 2

    No government needs to OWN thousands of houses. Build I can understand but there is no need for state ownership surely. Certainly not tens of thousands. That’s just a relic of the 20th century. Does it really matter if rent money is paid to the government or to the Salvation Army? This is another issue that National know that the public like. Really, really like.
    Arguing about semantics whilst tenants get a better deal and a house better suited to their needs is pointless. Is it just fear that home owners will no longer vote for the party of the 20th century who derived most support from people who rent..

    • mickysavage 2.1

      The trouble is that if the Government does not own these houses nothing will happen. Fine if the rent money is paid to the Salvation Army but this Government wants to make sure that the rent money is paid to private landlords.

      National is being duplicitous.

      • Olwyn 2.1.1

        Yes, given what is happening in other countries infected with the same illness, I suspect that the Salvation Army has the same role in this as “mums and dads” had in the last round of asset sales – there to provide the government’s asset stripping with a fig leaf.

      • fisiani 2.1.2

        You forget to write private ‘foreign’ landlords to further embellish the smear.

        • mickysavage

          No smear. This Government wants to pay money to private landlords to provide emergency housing. The market will provide the perfect solution …

          I did not smear and I certainly did not make any comment about who the owner may be. Stop trolling.

          • fisiani

            Can you point me to a government statement that indicates ‘private landlord’. If not then that is indeed a deliberate smear. I have heard mention of Salvation Army, housing charities, housing associations, church groups, iwi groups and councils. None of these I would categorize as a ‘private landlord’. Stop smearing.

            • mickysavage

              Government statement? No but have a listen to Paula Bennett’s recent statements. Interesting that you should limit the source to “Government statement” and then claim that if a “Government statement” did not raise the possibility then it is a smear. Very disingenuous.

              • fisiani

                Paula Bennett is the responsible Minister of the Government. I would regard a statement from her as being a Government statement. You have obviously heard her make a claim about private landlords. I must have missed it. Can you point me to it? Are you sure she said it or just being disingenuous having been found out?.

            • McFlock

              fuck off, fisi.

              They’re still selling the damned assets, regardless of whether they’ve announced yet that (after the first flurry of sales to the sallies and iwi) they
              re selling houses to benefit their profiteer developer mates – just like christchurch.

            • miravox

              “Can you point me to a government statement that indicates ‘private landlord’.”

              Did you even click on thelink to Paula Bennett’s interview in the post , fisi?

              In her first sit-down interview as Social Housing Minister, she tells Patrick Gower that the Government may set a percentage of the houses that are sold that it expects to be social or affordable housing.

              If that percentage turns out to be less than 100 – then it indicates private/corporate landlords might be in the mix.

              To make it even more explicit

              Some iwi as part of their Treaty settlements will have first right of refusal on surplus state houses, but they could also be purchased by first-home buyers and private developers.

              I doubt private developers care at all who has the money to buy, including private/corporate landlords. I also doubt the government cares if the ‘first home buyers’ buy to live there themselves or rent the places out. Just watch the investment-ready parents gift their first-home-buyer kids hefty deposits.

              The only real question is how many, not if, private/corporate landlords will be purchasers.

              • fisiani

                The organisations I mentioned above are private developers given that they are not “public’ or ‘state’. This will be a much loved policy. Not an issue worth being on the wrong side of the argument.

                PS there is no link

                • miravox

                  The point you were saying was a smear wasn’t about whether the sell-off of state housing would be a ‘much loved policy’. It was about whether the sell-off would include private landlords (imo, it’s hard to see why it would be a much-loved policy by someone with your political leanings if it didn’t).

                  Mickey is right – there is a government statement that indicates that the sell-off will probably include private landlords.

                  “PS there is no link”

                  Yes there is, it’s the 3rd point in the post.

                • McFlock

                  pinhead dancing…

            • NZJester

              Charity organizations like The Salvation Army etc. do not really have the money resources to buy the houses the government is looking to sell. In order to get the money to be able to buy some of them they would need to cut back on other services they currently offer. It would be a loose loose situation for the most venerable people who normally seek their help. The talk of selling to the charities is a smokescreen and most of the houses will very likely be purchased by the same rental property owners that are already making housing unaffordable for first home buyers.

              • RedLogix

                I suspect that fairly quickly the Slavos and H4H will realise that they are being used.

                Both organisations are much bigger than John Key – and both will eventually realise the stench attached to this ain’t worth it.

        • adam

          So fisiani if these properties do fall into the hands of private interest who then inflate the rentals – will you apologize to Mickey?

          Nah, just jokes – I know you’re just another one of liberalisms wankers – who thinks JK is a good guy , he never lies, never could do a two track system, and really does listen to the bottom 20%.

          Plus, why is the state handing over to a private religious organization the ability to control people lives – does they reek of interfering in personal choice, especially on the grounds of religious freedom?

          If the state wants to devolve these house, then shouldn’t the people who need them get a chance to buy them at say, no deposit and .05% till they pay them off – That is if this government is really interested in helping the people as you say fisani. But alas no – you will come back with some ideological answer, which I guess you won’t even know you’re being an ideological sock puppet.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      Build I can understand but there is no need for state ownership surely.

      Yeah there is – social responsibility for starters. Then there’s the fact that the government owning them is cheaper than the private sector owning them.

      This is another issue that National know that the public like. Really, really like.

      The referendum in which 7)5 of the population shows the exact opposite and National now back-pedaling shows that they also realise that the population really, really hate National selling off our assets to their rich mates.

    • <i.Build I can understand but there is no need for state ownership surely.

      The typical right-wing attitude here, assuming it’s natural and just for the taxpayer to invest in infrastructure and valuable assets so private speculators can make an easy buck off them.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    It’s simply more lying from National. They really are out to screw over NZ for themselves and their rich mates.

    • tc 3.1

      + 100
      Absolutely draco, recall blinglish during the campaign offering nothing when this would have been known to him.

      A half decent MSM would be hammering the govt over this deception till they relented but shonkeys crew have a NSW police styles green light to do as they please

  4. Key’s unstated mission is to asset strip NZ on behalf of his Wall Street buddies. I’m sure the consortium will look after him when he retires to Hawaii, he’s probably trying to join the billionaires’ club.

  5. Instead of entrenching power disparities, the Govt should consider applying the German legislative model of heavily favouring tenants to Aotearoa. It is urgently needed

    Most Germans don’t buy their homes, they rent. Here’s why
    Germany’s homeownership rate remains quite low. It was 43% in 2013.

    This may seem strange. Isn’t home ownership a crucial cog to any healthy economy? Well, as Germany shows—and Gershwin wrote—it ain’t necessarily so.

    In Spain, around 80% of people live in owner-occupied housing. (Yay!) But unemployment is nearly 27%, thanks to the burst of a giant housing bubble. (Ooof.)

    Only 43% own their home in Germany, where unemployment is 5.2%.

    Of course, none of this actually explains why Germans tend to rent so much. Turns out, Germany’s rental-heavy real-estate market goes all the way back to a bit of extremely unpleasant business in the late 1930s and 1940s.

    Soon after West Germany was established in 1949, the government pushed through its first housing law. The law was designed to boost construction of houses which, “in terms of their fittings, size and rent are intended and suitable for the broad population.”

    It worked. [And to this day renting is the norm in Germany]

    Why? The answer seems to be that Germans kept renting because, in Germany, rental housing is kind of nice.

    Economists think German housing policy struck a much better balance between government involvement and private investment than in many other countries.

    But given the economic spasms suffered in house-crazy economies such as the United States, Spain and Ireland in recent years, the German approach to housing looks pretty good right now

    (Apologies for re-post but I feel this comment belongs here)

    • Wayne 5.1


      A political party that advocates the German way of housing will not be a major party. New Zealander’s are committed to home ownership. Telling them they should not be will be treated with derision.

      This seems to be one of the differences between NZ, Aus, Can, UK and US compared to European nations. Typically the first group have lower size of government on average, lower taxes, more personal reliance, higher home and asset ownership.

      Obviously there is a range. The US has the smallest govt size, the UK the highest, with Aus, Can and NZ a bit below the UK, but substantially higher than the US.

      • Paul 5.1.1

        Maybe that’s one of our problems

      • felix 5.1.2

        “The US has the smallest govt size”

        Sure, if you get reeeeally selective about what you class as “government”.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.3

        A political party that advocates the German way of housing will not be a major party.

        Home ownership has been decreasing for some years now. Thing is, home ownership is actually a problem and not a solution as it causes people to look to rising house prices to make money. Government owned rentals are the solution to the housing crisis that has been brought on by home ownership and neo-liberal marketisation.

        Typically the first group have lower size of government on average, lower taxes, more personal reliance, higher home and asset ownership.

        And higher poverty due to the policies that reward the rich while penalising the poor.

      • shorts 5.1.4

        I disagree – the boomers yeah sure… but there is more to NZ than this privileged bunch and their antiquated views (unfortunately they do vote, whereas so many don’t)

        The reason many, including myself, desire homeownership is because renting is such a f___king nightmere. A rental market akin to Germany and other European countries is exactly the sort of thing I want and is a vote catcher not a turnoff

    • Jones 5.2

      Absolutely… and instead of investing capital into a non-productive assets, like houses, they poured their money into homegrown businesses and industry. Now where does Germany sit today in terms of wealth per capita comparative to NZ?

  6. coaster 6

    I personally think it is asset sales, but this goes on all the time, the soe, s sell bits and buy bits.
    has transpower sold any lines to private companys recenlty?

    • The SOEs are state owned: that means they should not be parcelled out piece by piece. The government has a responsibility to look after these assets for future generations.

  7. Jan Rivers 7

    Here is the National party social housing policy.
    There is nothing that hints at assets sales or the provision of landlord subsidies – quite the opposite. The closest is a statement to the effect that the law has already been changed to “facilitate a shift from state housing to a range of new social housing providers” . My understanding is that the new law did not actually achieve that. Rather it set the option for social housing providers to provide subsidies on the same basis as Housing New Zealand. SOE’s can divest themselves of assets (and purchase assets) without reference to new legislation and presumably with the oversight of the share-holding Minister.

    However given that we were promised on many occasions that there were few assets remaining to be sold and from he PM that he did not see any new assets being sold today’s news is a very bad breach of trust with New Zealanders.

    I understand that the SOE requirement to return profits to government has been particularly problematic for public housing over several governments – in fact since the SOE Acts. If the profits has been consistently reinvested in repairs and new housing (as any responsible asset owner) our public housing stock would be in much better shape now.

    I’m speculating also that there is also a problem for a future government that wishes to reinvest in social or public housing if the TPPA is passed and/ or the WTO government procurement agreement is signed. Any foreign investor in private rental housing that receives subsidies could potentially make a case that their future profits are dented if the government legislates to stop rent subsidies and hey presto – a potential investor state dispute tribunal loons.

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