After initially saying they would cap the number of state houses, National/ACT’s Housing Minister Phil Heatley actually got informed. Despite the good work that Labour did increasing the number of state houses and their quality, the problem has not been completely solved – there are thousands of families still in need of affordable housing. Now, Heatley says, there will be more state houses in South Auckland. He hasn’t said how many, or where in South Auckland, or if there will be more in other parts of the country that need more, or if the overall number of state houses will remain capped and new ones in South Auckland will replace ones sold elsewhere but, from National, we can’t expect too much in terms of substance.
I’m happy that National has had finally caught up and realised that there is a shortage of low-income housing. At least they’re heading in basically the right direction now. Question is: now they are going to build state houses, will they do it right?
Brian Rudman has an excellent piece today where he discusses this issue, and he has a good suggestion – allow Housing New Zealand to build state houses at Hobsonville. HNZ had planned 500 state houses for that project but John Key called it ‘economic vandalism’ and the incoming government cut the state house from the plans. Now that they have decided they do want more state houses, Hobsonville is an excellent site for them with building ready to commence very soon.
Rather than yet another isolated, low-income suburb tacked on to the bottom of South Auckland, far from jobs and amenities, a natural home for unemployment and crime, we could have State house families living in a modern, well-planned suburb on the North Shore. Rather than further accentuating the physical divide between rich and poor, National could create the kind of mixed-income community close to jobs and with good amenities that give children from poorer households a better chance to succeed.
Of course, if he were to do that Key would have to disappoint the wealthy voters of Helensville who cheer at the end of this recording when he promises no state houses at Hobsonville. And, unfortunately, I think we can safely assume Key will back the interests of wealthy people like himself over the interests of state house kids like he once was.