In these days of increased poverty and surging housing need a responsible Government would allow Housing Corporation to invest its spare cash in building new homes and repairing clearly deficient existing homes. But the Government clearly has alternative priorities.
Housing New Zealand is expecting to pay the Crown a dividend of $118 million this financial year, the largest in five years.
Opposition politicians have been urging the Government to take a smaller dividend from the agency that manages State houses, after reports of cold and mouldy houses.
Housing New Zealand returned a $108 million dividend in the past financial year, the third largest ever paid.
At the time the responsible minister, Bill English said the higher dividend would allow the Government to help more people with serious housing needs.
“Housing New Zealand has sufficient cash to invest in new houses and at the level that we’ve specified, and to do its maintenance programmes,” he said.
“So really the dividend is about just a bit of pressure on them to be efficient.”
This shows clearly the difference between Labour and National. In the last three years of Labour’s reign the dividends the Housing Corp paid to the Crown were $20 million, $13 million and $2 million. The last three dividends paid to John Key’s National Government have been $77 million, $90 million and $108 million.
It is not the case that Housing Corporation is run more efficiently by National and can therefore pay more money. You just have to look at Solid Energy to realise how poor the Government’s managerial oversight of SOEs is. Rather the intent is to minimise Housing Corporation’s effectiveness and make it no more than a cash cow.
English’s statement shows clearly how words can trip out of National Ministers’ mouths but be utterly bereft of meaning. The higher dividends do not permit the Government to house more people with serious housing needs. It means that Housing Corp’s ability to perform its functions of providing social housing is compromised.
These profits are directly related to Emma Lita’s death in a cold damp flat. National’s insistence on increased dividends meant that basic maintenance work was not done. And the sell off to Australian housing providers is not for some claimed efficiency but so that the dividend flow can continue and a state hopelessly financially compromised by unaffordable tax cuts to the rich can stagger on for another year.