Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

By   /   June 13, 2015  /   16 Comments

Another broken promise from National…

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National Party - 2014 election - social housing policy - Housing NZ

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On 12 June, Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennet was interviewed on Radio NZ’s ‘Nine to Noon‘ programme. Kathryn Ryan asked why there were so many  thousands of State houses in desperate need on maintenance.

In the interview, Bennett claimed that money was not a problem in Housing NZ’s maintenance programme;

@ 4.29

“What I will say is that it’s not a money problem. So there is enough money there for us to get that stock up. It is a big programme of work that is constantly ongoing…

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…So it’s not a matter of neglect.”

And again @ 5.41

“Which is really my point. So we’re saying it’s not actually about the money. The money is there to be spent for maintenance.”

Bennett’s statements were a parroting of  Bill English’s previous claim, made on 5 June  on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘, who also denied  money was the core problem of run-down Housing NZ properties;

“They’ve done a very large scale programme – insulated every house that it can, which is 48,000 houses over the last four or five years.

It’s got to deal with the same limitations of process as everybody else, it’s got to get consents, it’s got to find a workforce, but it’s not short of money to do the job.”

Bennett and English have both blamed lack of tradesmen and other spurious excuses for rundown houses.

But according to Housing NZ, the reason for our run-down State housing stock is very much a matter of lack of money, as I pointed out to Kathryn Ryan in an email I sent to her during her interview with Bennett;
from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jun 12, 2015
subject: Paula Bennet on Housing maintenance funding
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Kia ora Kathryn,
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Paula Bennett’s assertion that Housing NZ has plenty of funds for maintenance is at variance with this statement from Housing NZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report;
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The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

 

Furthermore, on page 36 of the 2013/14 Annual Report, Repairs and Maintenance is given as $220 million for the period.This is $1 billion less than the $1.2 billion quoted by Bill English to TVNZ’s Corin Dann on 24 March, this year.

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Either Bennett is ignorant, or she is spinning. Either way, not a good look.

-Frank Macskasy

Ms Ryan read out my email, on air, subsequent to the interview.

Hopefully, the media will pick up on what is obviously a gross distortion from National’s spin doctors. By asserting that  there is no lack of money available, this shifts responsibility from  government to blaming others for lack of maintenance.

It also deflects attention from the fact that National has used Housing NZ as a cash cow by demanding dividends, in a futile attempt by Bill English to balance the government books and post a surplus (which he has also failed at spectacularly), as this ‘Dominion Post‘ editorial highlighted;

This year the Government expects to get $220m in tax and dividends from the corporation. It wants profits as well as social services. And it is also in thrall to its ideology of semi-privatisation.

Housing NZ was explicit in it’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

It is up to the media to challenge Ministers when they make assertions that are patently untrue.

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References

Radio NZ: The state of state housing

Radio NZ: The state of state housing (audio) (alt. link)

Radio NZ: State housing criticism valid, says English

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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16 Comments

  1. reason says:

    You spotted a deliberate decision to lie in unison by bennet and english and well done on your quick email pointing out their falsehood.

    I think they are all taking their cue from Key who would have to be the most dishonest prime minister we have ever had……..

    • I think they are all taking their cue from Key who would have to be the most dishonest prime minister we have ever had……..

      He certainly has a knack for faking sincerity and telling porky pies.

  2. ThinkAboutIT says:

    Excellent piece of journalism.
    With respect to the dishonesty, it is becoming that ubiquitous shock no longer occurs. A current case in point are Keys claims that Pharmac won’t be damaged by the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. Being more skilled in disinformation than English and Bennett Key muddies the message by only talking of unit costs for an individual on existing subsidised drugs.
    This disingenuous defence of the TPPA fails to address the fact that unless the US alters its previous position on patents the total costs to Pharmac will increase.
    Given the neoliberal mind-set of this government it is probable that fewer new drugs will be subsidised and / or increased costs will be stripped from other social services.
    Labour must clearly state that they reserve the right to withdraw and renegotiate any TPPA agreements these people haters sign up to.

  3. Brigid says:

    That’s brilliant Frank. Thank you.
    Incidentally, their insulation program has been a complete waste of money where insulation has only been put in the ceiling space. Warm air will not choose not to migrate through un-insulated walls just because the ceiling is insulated. It’s a shame there doesn’t seem to be a politician with a little knowledge of thermo dynamics.

    • Lara says:

      … and the uptake of subsidised insulation by landlords for their rental properties was horribly low

      even if the state subdises them a huge majority of NZ landlords still won’t spend $$ to improve their properties.

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        Yes, I have one such landlord, who years ago even asked me to have a specialist heating and insulation installer get access to my rental, to prepare a quote for her.

        They got the quote, and then the government offered a nice subsidy for landlords that let places to persons on a benefit or with community services cards. I was such a tenant.

        Did she ever go ahead and have the place insulated? Nope, could not be bothered, even paying a little after a subsidy she could have cashed in on.

        That is how most private landlords are like, they are quick to collect the rent, but when it comes to deliver improvements and repairs, they cannot bother.

        But had it gone ahead, I am sure the rent would have instantly gone up also.

        Being a renter in NZ is not an experience I recommend. I know there are also bad tenants, but I hear and see little of what some landlords often complain about.

        This country needs an urgent reform of the Tenancy Act, to improve renters rights, and it certainly needs enforceable standards like minimum temperatures that are guaranteed in homes, with heating options provided.

        And for the state homes, that is where substantial investment, new construction and more is needed, as the poorest of the poor are ignored by both major parties, as if they do not exist.

        With Labour now firmly focused on “the centre”, and middle class stake holder voters, Labour will also continue to ignore the lot of those in state houses and on benefits, despite of what they may tell us. They cannot be believed either.

  4. CLEANGREEN says:

    Good investigative journo Frank.

    How come dill brained “Bill English” is still the Finance Minister after this botch-up after six years of other similar botch-up’s???

    He is clearly a liar as Key is, and my father built a lot of state houses in Napier and always said they were built of better materials than houses of the day and now with real wood not soft wood and particle board as they are now.

    “Furthermore, on page 36 of the 2013/14 Annual Report, Repairs and Maintenance is given as $220 million for the period. This is $1 billion less than the $1.2 billion quoted by Bill English to TVNZ’s Corin Dann on 24 March, this year.”

    http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/budget-builds-recovery-helps-families

    This is what English said at 2010 budget time that all went up in smoke again as now..

    Turning back debt, getting back to surplus

    Budget 2010 takes further steps to get rising debt under control and return the Government to surplus three years sooner than forecast in Budget 2009.

    “A year ago, forecasts showed we faced nine years of deficits. This Budget forecasts we will return to surplus in 2016. That’s good progress, but we will continue to work hard to get back into surplus more quickly,” Mr English says.

    “We still expect to borrow an average $240 million a week, every week until 2013, before this amount falls away as we move closer to budget surplus.

    “It’s important we continue to make considered decisions now so we can grow the economy faster and avoid having to make harsh decisions later.”

  5. Weepus beard says:

    Well done Frank. Please keep up the good work.

  6. BruceTheMoose says:

    Another housing promise broken –
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/69105074/housing-new-zealand-to-miss-christchurch-rebuild-target

    They may get half the amount built instead of the 700 promised by 2015
    What they also aren’t letting on, is that they had to pull down about 150 older existing Housing NZ homes to build the new ones. Also, most of the new ones are multi-units each with smaller floor areas than the original homes they replace. But like everything with this government, it’s all about false image and show, not truth and reality.

  7. bad12 says:

    Revealing from Bennett, the Prime Minister’s ”we will only be selling State Houses to Social Providers” now has a codicil added from Paula,

    ‘If there are too many of them in one place of course we might have to sell them in the private market’, (words to that effect),

    Stealing the collective wealth of the poorest New Zealander’s to house the middle classes while enriching the developer mates seems to be the intent and reality of the re-arranging of HousingNZ,

    At a time when we had a population of 2.5 million souls there were 75,000 State Houses, the number is said now to be 68,000 and falling for a population of 4.5 million of us,

    The number of us judged to be ‘poor’ continues to rise it is obvious that 150,000 State Homes at the least are necessary…

  8. Mike in Auckland says:

    Yes, I followed some of those reports and interviews myself, and shocked by the blatant lying of those faces called English and Bennett. But that is the “culture” we have now in Aotearoa NZ, or NZ Inc, as others prefer to call it now.

    Lying through their teeth, with a smile on their face and asking to be trusted, that is the rule we get from government ministers.

    The fact is this government, and be honest, also the previous one, have largely neglected state housing, as both were and are planning to sell more of the stock, and to outsource the remnants to “community providers”.

    And Phil Twyford wants to do the same, despite of his repeated hand-wringing and blame game, believe you me, hence the Nats not long ago loved teasing him about a past speech he held, revealing Labour’s intentions for “community housing” and “social housing”.

    Even in welfare, Labour prepared the ground for what the Nats are doing, and hence there is little honest opposition from Labour on that, the privatisation of welfare, the pressuring of sick, injured and disabled to also go and work, whether there is decent, suitable work or not, that is all a matter of interpretation, that word “suitable”.

    Read this OAG report, it reveals what Labour prepared in social security, to gradually move sick and disabled into work, following the lead in the UK:
    http://www.oag.govt.nz/2009/social-development/docs/social-development.pdf

    So yes, what to do? The elephant in the room is that so much talked about “centre” of voters, the middle class, who are the voters both major parties, now also the Greens, seem to cherish and get to vote for them. The middle class is full of “hard working”, ambitious, aspiring property owners, or wannabe buyers, who send their kids to school to get a hopefully good education.

    They want decent income, low taxes, and security for themselves. They do not mind low paid workers fill their bags in supermarkets and serve meals at take away restaurants and so forth.

    And they have little time for those poor, hopeless souls, who they often rather blame for their lot.

    Hence Nats and Labour know, that many of their voters would not feel great about more spending on anything like state or social housing, benefits and the likes. Consequence is, they cannot bother doing much for the poorest of the poor, apart tell them to get work, to work harder, to get better education, to shape up and shut up.

    The rest of what they do is cosmetics, to keep a good enough image, not more and less.

    They are all liars, serving their clientele and self serving interests. That is in brief the state of affairs in this country.

  9. Mike in Auckland says:

    Meanwhile in Aotearoa NZ, another world exists for wealthy refugees, homes safely and comfortably tucked away in nice landscapes, all thanks to the easy sleazy immigration policy that allows for investors and their “investment” of sorts to get a foot in the door. A great “escape” for the wealthy, who are well kept, and not facing filthy breaking down homes at all:

    http://robinwestenra.blogspot.co.nz/2015/06/someone-elses-country.html

    Is this still YOUR NEW ZEALAND, folks? Is this what you settle with, to go and sleep well at night for? Is this what you really believe in, to become nothing but a mercenary servant to the rich and famous, using YOUR country as a safe pad, a nice refuge, should the shit hit the fan where they stuffed up?

    Wow, if you do, I surely do NO LONGER want to be part of your crap traitor society!

  10. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    “It is up to the media to challenge Ministers when they make assertions that are patently untrue.”

    Goodness Frank, which media do you think might do that?

    So far the only media to do that is TDB through Mr Macskasy and although it was an excellent expose that needed to be made, to my knowledge this chap isn’t a journalist in the MSM.

    Oh where oh where has our media gone?

    Neo-liberal heaven?

  11. Liberty4NZ says:

    J S Bark

    Goodness Frank, which media do you think might do that?

    Well actually, this one. This is the media too, thank goodness for that!

  12. Dorothy says:

    So how long before they put pressure on National Radio to get rid of Kathryn Ryan as well as John Campbell?


 
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