John Key was on Radio New Zealand this morning talking about the sale of social housing to Australian Social Housing provider Horizon Housing. Vague John as opposed to Definite John (“it is all Labour’s fault and here is the conclusive proof” or “Labour does it too“) showed up.
The interview was excrutiating. The audio is below.
Key gave away very few details about the proposal and it is probably fair to say he knows very few details. He did say that Horizon Housing was an Australian based charity. Espiner asked him how it would help low income New Zealanders if an Australian entity owned the houses. Key thought the nationality did not matter, just that they were community housing providers. The freed up capital can then be used in areas where there is a shortage of housing.
Espiner then asked a relevant question. The justification for the sale is that the Government does not have the expertise or local knowledge to provide social housing properly so why go to a foreign entity? Key fluffed around and said that he did not know a tremendous amount about Horizon Homes or all of the details. You would expect him to be appraised of this sort of information before deciding to sell hundreds of state homes to a foreign entity.
I could not figure from what he said if Key supported the proposal or not. This is astounding in that we are talking about hundreds of houses potentially sold and hundreds of families potentially affected. And Espiner is right, National’s latest move is desperate. The Salvation Army will not touch the proposal, Iwi will but only if the houses are gifted to them, and other local organisations are hardly queuing at the door seeking involvement.
The proposal has many fishhooks in it.
For instance Horizon Homes is a registered company with not for profit charity status in Australia. The situation in New Zealand, and presumably in Australia is that charitable work should be conducted in the country. I am no expert on Australian Charities law but this document from the Australian Government Taxation Office suggests that an Australian based entity “must pursue its objectives and incur its expenditure principally in Australia”. While there would be nothing wrong with the purchase of property overseas without a local charity being established there Horizon Homes could otherwise have some issues if it wanted to reinvest profits made into New Zealand. All that may happen is that New Zealand social housing underwrites the cost of Australian social housing.
Besides the whole idea is bizarre. What are we going to do next? Invite Australia’s Department of Social Services to look after beneficiaries on the basis that the more this Government gets out of the provision of social services the better?
Like Nick Smith’s Auckland housing police this proposal has a feeling that it has been thrown together with little thought about how feasible it is, what needs to be in place to make it work, or what happens if it fails. It is a case of doctrinaire politics succeeding over proper management and a perfect example of why National does not deserve to be in control of the Government. It seeks to divest itself of social responsibilities not because generally these will be better met by other entities, but because it is that lacking in skills or compassion that it does not know what to do.