The state of state houses

Written By: - Date published: 8:03 am, July 12th, 2015 - 16 comments
Categories: class war, housing - Tags: , ,

Turns out are state houses are in a shocking state of disrepair. The Nation’s Nicola Kean:

Are warrants unwarranted for state houses?

In February last year, Housing Minister Nick Smith launched a trial Warrant of Fitness scheme for state houses. Inspectors would take a look at 500 Housing New Zealand properties to see, essentially, if they were fit for people to live in. …

48 percent of the houses in the trial were non-compliant and found in need of urgent repairs. That means they needed to be fixed within two days or the house might have to be vacated. Another 32 percent needed “high priority” repairs within 10 days. That’s 80 percent of the Housing New Zealand properties in the trial that need pretty serious work.

There’s more: 33 percent failed the WoF not only because was there no insulation, but also no way to heat the house. And 22 percent didn’t have functioning bathroom and toilet doors; 10 percent had significant mould.

That seems much less pedantic, although it won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who’s been following recent developments in social housing. The poor quality of state housing is part of the reason the Government wants to sell some of them off to social housing providers. And a damp state house was last month cited by a coroner as contributing to the death of todder Emma Lita-Bourne in Auckland.

“22 percent didn’t have functioning bathroom and toilet doors” – WTF? 80 percent needed serious work – WTF? This is negligence on a massive scale. How has this been allowed to happen?

One relevant factor is the shape that housing in when the Nats took over in 2008. I haven’t found anything definitive (If anyone knows of real data on this please say so in comments), but neither of the following from 2008 suggests a crisis. From the Report from the Controller and Auditor-Generalon Housing New Zealand Corporation: Maintenance of state housing

The Auditor-General found that the HNZC’s overall systems for maintaining its State houses are comprehensive and effective, but that the systems it uses to assess the condition of its properties and measure its performance are inadequate.

From the 2008 Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Housing:

Like the general housing stock, the Corporation’s own state housing stock is ageing, and has ongoing and increasing maintenance and modernisation requirements. For every dwelling, the Corporation spends about $3,000 a year on maintenance. However, a backlog of repairs remains, which the Corporation is working to reduce.

Since then:

Duncan Garner talks with Peter Hannam, former Housing New Zealand Principal Advisor Quality, about the condition of state houses and what goes on behind the scenes. He says changes by the National Government means there are less tenancy managers checking the status of houses.

Interesting interview, check it out. At 05:45:

Hannam: “Under the Labour government the money was coming through and they were heading in the right direction. … [Under National] The focus had gone on to redevelopment and the provision of new housing.”

This needs a proper investigation – why were state houses allowed to get this bad? And as a footnote, do those Aussie buyers the Nats are so keen on know what they’re getting?

16 comments on “The state of state houses”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    I have a former HNZ maintenance manager on radio saying that after National took power there was a definite ‘move away’ from maintaining the older houses, and the money was spent on the ‘redevelopment’ side

    • Charles 1.1

      Yeah, that’s the direction to look. I too recently watched/read an article about how maintenance budget had been witheld/tucked away/reassigned. Can’t for the life of me remember where. It might have been the public meeting at…hang on a sec…. will go look.

  2. Penny Bright 2

    Haven’t we been here before?

    ‘Create a crisis so people see the need for reform’?

    Run down the State Housing asset – then use that as the excuse to hock it off?

    Who benefits?

    Follow the dollar ……

    Penny Bright

    • maui 2.1

      Good point Penny. I know of a group of state houses that had earthquake risk concerns (two-storey timber frame weatherboard houses). They were tested by government and found to fail. There did not seem to be much investigation into how they could be made safe. Now they have been bowled. This whole process was covered by the media, it reinforces the public view that the buildings are worthless.

    • hoom 2.2

      Thats exactly Nick Smiths MO.
      He does it wherever he is assigned.

  3. Re: the aussie buyers, my guess is that they will be able to cherry pick the houses they buy. Probably a tight grouping in an rapidly appreciating Auckland suburb.

    • David H 3.1

      All bowled for multi million buck Mcpads.

      • Yep, that’s my pick. See out the minimum terms of the contract to provide the social housing (5 years? Ten years?), then flog ’em off and take the profits back to Oz.

        • David H 3.1.1.1

          And with a shit load of money due to come out of china, how many more will disappear and be made into what? Gated communities, to keep the riff raff out?

        • adam 3.1.1.2

          You’re in optimistic mode today te reo putake, my guess the requirement will be 5 years maximum. Or if my cynicism gets’ full blown, a 2+2 deal with exclusions on issues of maintenance, or more specifically a ‘state of repair’ clause, which gives them a right to sell if it is too expensive to repair.

  4. Save NZ 4

    It’s all about asset sales for the Nats.

    Providing social housing is against what the Nats stand for.

    No surprises to me the maintenance budget has ‘disappeared’.

    And that the houses are being hocked off…

    One thing also to look at, is with the privatisation of power the increase in the ‘daily charge’. Even if you can’t afford power you are forced into debt. So even if there was a heating source can the tenant afford to heat the house?

  5. Ch_ch chiquita 5

    After what I read yesterday about how the government is manipulating the money going into Christchurch rebuild and back tracking on signed projects, I will not be surprised if somewhere there is an impressive budget for HNZ so they can scream back at opposition about how much more this government is allocating for the maintenance of the housing stock and that the poor condition of the houses is just proof that HNZ is not functioning and thus privatization is the way forward.

  6. Descendant Of Sssmith 6

    Would be interesting to see the provincial disparity as well.

    It seems small town Housing NZ properties have been allowed to run down at a much faster rate than Auckland’s for instance.

    A breakdown of maintenance spend by town/region would also be useful.

    There’s also of course the issue that if you no longer have a state house for life you’re likely less inclined to fix that stuff yourself as many people did.

    Lots of people put in fences and driveways and carports and gardens etc cause they treated it as their own home.

    The saddest thing is that the very rent the (poor in every sense of the word) tenants pay is being used to pay dividends to government instead of paying for maintenance.

    Alongside this people I know were kicked off the waiting lists in the couple of years prior to transferring the responsibility to WINZ. Would be interesting to see a graph of the waiting list for the last five or so years to see if it shows this.

  7. Mike the Savage One 7

    Years of neglect, decades of neglect we may honestly say, and hence you get this state of affairs, and then of course, coming National and ACT, hey, this “does not work”, “the state cannot do things”, we need to sell and privatise.

    Just more proof of the old, well proved agenda, neglect, complain, sell and rid yourself of responsibilities.

    So Nick Smith can get all enraged about Labour’s Phil Twyford making allegedly discriminatory remarks, go and sort out your own back-yard, Mr Smith, without excuses. Hiding this shameful state of affairs should actually cost you your damned job, having also failed with addressing the housing affordability crisis in Auckland.

    Nick resign, the way you handle your job and portfolio is a disgrace!!!

  8. The state of state houses is an abomination. That is what the state of state housing is.

    Like the Government presiding over it at the moment.

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