On Friday the Methodist Mission issued a statement in which they joined the Salvation Army in deciding not to be part of the government sell-off of state housing.
This is a welcome development because it helps to bring the focus back to the housing crisis for families and tenants on low incomes.
The Methodist Mission statement sums up the key problems with the government policy. It says in part:
“Following government plans to transfer more responsibility for housing low income and vulnerable tenants by selling a portion of its housing stock to community providers, Methodist Mission Aotearoa have also chosen not to participate in the transfer, instead suggesting a collaborative approach to create new housing stock.
Representing a collective of social services agencies including Lifewise, Methodist Mission Northern, Airedale Property Trust, Wesley Community Action, Christchurch Methodist Mission and The Methodist Mission Southern, as well as Tongan and Samoan services, Methodist Mission Aotearoa supports and empowers vulnerable New Zealanders nation-wide.
Methodist Mission Aotearoa does not believe that the government’s proposal to sell state housing to the social sector is in the best interest of the communities where housing is desperately needed. Rather than focusing on a change of ownership, they propose establishing partnerships with the government and other service providers to create new, good-quality, affordable housing to support the thousands of New Zealanders in need.
The crisis is not solely about social housing, but is a combination of problems being faced by families. Income inequality, high rental costs, poor quality housing, overcrowding, insecure tenancies and houses located away from essential services, transport and communities all contribute to sub-standard living conditions for many.
With 5000 people currently waiting to be housed, Methodist Mission Aotearoa believe the emphasis should be on growing the number of houses available, rather than focusing on a change of ownership. Methodist Mission Aotearoa believe the government should play a key role in providing quality, affordable public housing.”
These are voices from the front line. These organisations already work small miracles every day for vulnerable families but the task of providing affordable housing for everyone in need is well beyond their capability. Only the government has the resources and capacity to do this but National is abandoning this responsibility.
Housing New Zealand will have to be rebuilt by a future government as under National it is being progressively gutted. Under John Key’s orders Housing New Zealand has slashed state house waiting lists, had most local HNZ offices closed, driven staff morale to rock-bottom and is no longer assessing tenants for housing needs. All existing state house tenants are to be stripped of tenure and the government intends to sell thousands of state houses to private “social housing providers”.
Housing Minister Nick Smith says the government wants to “create a market in social housing” but nowhere in the world has “the market” provided quality affordable housing for families on low incomes. Instead it provides slum landlords, cockroach-infested caravans and cardboard shacks by the side of the road. We have plenty of all three in New Zealand already.
The voices of reasons from our leading social housing providers, the Salvation Army and Methodist Mission, are welcomed to this debate about state housing and the crisis of quality and affordability of housing for families on low incomes.
Let’s hope others tempted to purchase state houses will join to oppose the government state house selloff because if any social housing providers co-operate with these policies they will be betraying existing state house tenants and those families now and in the future who need state housing.