Government plans for state house sell off in tatters



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.

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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.


  1. Good stuff John,

    I guess the nasty NatZ will be burning the midnight oil to manufacture yet another plan to reap in more money from another of the last remaining assets this insidious mongrels are selling off next.

    Could it be Kiwirail unfortunately, as they have stolen everything within that asset they could find to bolster their purse for budget time,
    so they can say “look we have a surplus now”!!

    They are slimy criminals and traitors to us all as Kiwis.

  2. I think there are a few things that should be almost written in stone and not up for being dicked around with by whatever party is in govt at any time. They are health, education, elder care and I would add to that, social housing. Social housing is provided by society, society’s representative is the elected government, the job of providing social housing is the government’s. It needs managing better but that can be done.
    The way things are going we actually are going to need a whole lot more social housing very soon.

    • Their supporters would only respond by bleating about how unfair it is that they should have to “subsidise the bludgers” by paying for social housing, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that housing prices are out of control because of the complete lack of disincentive to property speculation by means of a capital gains tax, or tax breaks for manufacturing and export investment, rather than non-productive investments like NZ’s free for all housing market affords.

      If the market were more well regulated, and its tax base more fair, then low income families could afford to pay for their housing out of their incomes, instead of relying on housing provisions or subsidies, just like they used to back before Rogernomics.

      Such is their myopia.

  3. Wonderful cartoon and caption!!!
    Sadly John “you don’t want to be that type” Key and his fellow travellers are so full of hubris it is unlikely that this attempt to shed yet another area of social care / uplift has been abandoned.

    One valid point they may have was the location and type of housing may need rationalisation therefore pressure should be bought to bear on them to address these problems while increasing the state housing stock.

  4. This situation could be avoided if 10 year plans which must be adhered to regardless of who is in power, were to become part of our central government, as is done in local govt. Certain basic tenets would become not negotiable and mad plans to gut institutions like Housing Corp should be taken out of polutical hands.

  5. 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.

    Summed up everything wrong with National’s ill-considered housing policy in one, succinct, sentence.

  6. Hi Dorothy, I do not know whether your spelling of political as polutical was intentional or not but either way it sums up this corrupt and polluted government under John Key. Polutical they are indeed.

  7. This is a complete misrepresentation of the policy and of its current status. There will be some housing providers who don’t want to take up the opportunity, and others who do. “Instead it provides slum landlords, cockroach-infested caravans and cardboard shacks by the side of the road. ” No, it doesn’t. Private landlords currently provide homes for low income tenants, and as far as I’m aware have done for many years. What is being advocated is, therefore, nothing new.

  8. Very early on, in a public statement released by, Maori Social Housing Provider, The Northland Housing Forum also condemned this sell off.

    From the Northland Age, Tuesday, February, 3, 2015

    “The new policy would not create new houses, and certainly not new houses for the vulnerable. “It has a reckless tone to it,” TIM HOWARD Northland Housing Forum Convener

    Full statement:

    “Selling State Houses Leaves Forum Cold”

    The Northland Housing Forum is far from convinced that the selling of government owned state houses to Maori and community housing organisations, as announced by Prime Minister John Key last week, will benefit those most in need.
    The new policy would not create new houses, and certainly not new houses for the vulnerable. “It has a reckless tone to it,” Forum convener Tim Howard said.
    He described the Forum, launched at Otiria Marae 10 years ago in March, as a network of Maori and community housing providers throughout Te Tai Tokerau, supported by whanau and families, by various Maori ropu and representatives of hapu, by community groups, health, local government and statutory bodies.
    It had actively progressed housing issues for whanau, families and communities, for example by reducing obstacles to using Maori land for housing, and facilitating central and local government support for non-profit housing providers.
    “For a range of reasons, this reckless proposal seems to us to be unsustainable, and maybe even set up to fail; then it would provide a window for a substantial sell-off of state houses to the private sector,” Mr Howard said.
    “The success of this plan is unlikely. The financial model the proposal operates under, the evident lack of readiness of government departments to administer its complexity the lack of capacity of the not-for-profit Maori and community housing sector the increased withdrawal of government from support for the sector over recent years, all point to the likely failure to meet the goal of 2000 state houses to bought by this sector this year.
    “Driving this rushed sell-off are the Government’s deeper beliefs, two in particular – that government should pull back from state housing provision, and that the market will provide. In other words, privatisation is the the underlying agenda. Contrary to promises in the election period, this is heading towards the next great asset sale.”
    The Forum believed the National party had long had a major state housing sell-off in its sights, noting the stock transfers in the 1970s. One of the two large sell-offs of housing to communities had been a failure, Mr Howard said, and the houses had to be returned to the state.
    In the 1990s the party had tried to sell some 20,000 houses, while in 2013 the Minister had written to the chief executive of Housing NZ, stating that the numbers of houses would soon be ‘significantly lower.’
    “Selling off state houses and privatisation – they are the real agenda. Not meeting families’ needs,” he added.
    The Forum believed a number of reasons were responsible for vacant state houses, including Government practices, as opposed to a reduction in the number of needy families. Vulnerable and homeless families were still around, Mr Howard said, but had been “invisibilised”.
    These practices responsible included tighter eligibility criteria to get on to waiting lists, reviewable tenancies (which he said would see 5000 families removed from state houses) and a lack of social support from Housing NZ for their tenants.
    “Housing NZ is no longer a social housing provider. All these practices mean these families no longer count, not that their housing needs are being properly met,” he said.
    Meanwhile, the Forum also saw a “crucial” problem with the new policy being that the Maori and community housing provider sector, particularly in the North, lacked the capacity to buy and administer a significant number of state houses.
    “Few organisations, even in Auckland but especially in Northland, are ready to buy and manage these numbers of new houses,” Mr Howard added.
    “There are no substantial contributions to support the running of such housing providers. No direct subsidies to help buy the houses have been announced. Key just tells these groups to talk to the banks, while ignoring the tight balancing of budgets they already have to do to survive.”
    Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said last week the Government would be listening to the sector, and growing the sector slowly, “while at the same time promising the rushed sale of 2000 houses within 11 months”, a policy that would not create any new houses.

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