A recent story by Daily Blogger, Martyn Bradbury, raises serious questions about National’s questionable track record around state housing.
The family was living in a HNZ property that was obviously sub-standard;
The toilet floor had sunk into the ground, making it difficult for Sheraz to use, given his condition.
The shower is also problematic for him as it’s inside a deep bathtub and he needs his wife’s help to use it.
The family has also complained about bugs coming through a hole in the wall of the bathroom.
The hole has been plugged by toilet paper, while a piece of wood was placed to cover the bathroom floor.
Ms Parmar lambasted Housing NZ for “inaction” and called the situation “unbelievable”. Her social media statements were linked to the NZ Herald story, ensuring maximum exposure gained from the Loun family’s dire circumstances.
But Ms Parmar noticeably glossed over a salient point regarding the state of the NZH property;
“Around 8 months of repeated contact and no action.” – Twitter
“The Loun family, two parents and three kids, have been complaining to HNZ about rats, fleas, bugs, an unsafe bathroom and an unsuitable shower at the property for eight months.” – NZ Herald
“… they were chasing them for nearly 8 months, yes nearly 8 months and there was no action…” – Facebook
Fun Fact 1: That suggests this problem has been ongoing since before the election of the current government. In essence, the rot set in (literally!) during National’s term in office.
This brings back memories of Emma-Lita Bourne, who was two years old in 2014, when she perished from a brain haemorrhage resulting from a clot. She had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness. The toddler and her family had also been living in a sub-standard HNZ property that was cold, damp, had mould on the walls and floor, and the roof leaked.
The coroner, Brandt Shortland, said matter-of-factly;
“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita’s health status.”
Fun Fact 2: Ms Parmar was a Member of Parliament at the time of the Coroner’s findings into Emma-Lita’s death.
In October 2015, Labour’s Phil Twyford introduced the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill to Parliament. That Bill – eventually passed in November 2017 – would create a “warrant of fitness” for rental properties.
Fun Fact 3: Ms Parmar was one of National and ACT Party MPs who voted against the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill. The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill would have “changed the current law to ensure that every rental home in New Zealand meets minimum standards of heating and insulation“.
Ms Parmar voted against the very thing she was railing against on social media and the Herald.
Fun Fact 4: In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of 69,000 rental properties.
By 2014 – when Ms Paramar entered Parliament, the number of state houses had dropped to 68,229 – a loss of 771 potential homes for the most needy families and individuals in this country.
By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (with a further 2,700 leased) – a reduction of 7,400 properties.
And by 2017, Housing NZ’s stock of owned or managed properties had fallen to “approximately” 63,000 homes. The 2017 Annual Report does not differentiate the number of owned rental properties from “managed” assets. However, the number is still 1,300 owned/managed properties fewer than the previous year (see above).
National’s policy of selling state housing was obviously proceeding at pace despite Housing NZ posting a loss on the sale of properties of $10,781,000 for the financial year (Annual Report, p108);
National’s ideological mania for selling state assets was proceeding unchecked, incurring significant losses for the taxpayer.
By 2018, the new Coalition Government had staunched the loss of properties. According to their 2017/18 Annual Report, Housing NZ owned 61,500 properties, with a further 2,500 leased – 64,000 in total and an increase of about a thousand homes.
This is still a far cry from the 69,000 properties owned by Housing NZ when National took office.
Fun Fact 5: Ms Parmar was part of a government that sold/disposed of 7,500 properties.
Fun Fact 6: During her four year tenure in Parliament, Housing NZ lost 5,229 homes from it’s stock
Fun Fact 7: Whilst the National government – of which Ms Parmar was an eagerly participating member – was busily selling off state housing, the waiting list for people needing a home was steadily rising;
Fun Fact 8: When Ms Parmar entered Parliament in September 2014, there were 4,189 people on Housing NZ’s waiting list. By the time voters threw out the National government in late 2017, that number had risen to 6,182.
Alongside a covert mass-sell-off of state housing, National was also raiding Housing NZ’s coffers.
Fun Fact 9: The government department tasked with looking after some of the most vulnerable, poverty-stricken families and individuals was stripped of “dividends” of $532 million from 2010 to 2015 – over half a billion dollars. The dividends did not include gst and interest payments from Housing NZ to central government;
2010: $71 million
2011: $68 million
2012: $77 million
2013: $90 million
2014: $108 million
2015: $118 million
Total: $532 million
At a time when thousands were on a waiting list for a home and entire families were living in over-crowded houses; garages, and cars and vans – National was helping itself to cash that could have alleviated a large measure of homelessness.
(Note: Labour, under the Clark/Cullen leadership, also demanded dividends from Housing NZ. It is nothing to be proud of that Budget surpluses were achieved – in part – off the backs of the poor. At least Labour did not cut taxes, as National did in 2009 and 2010, thereby transferring wealth from the poor/HNZ tenants – to the wealthy/high-income earners.)
Fun Fact 10: Ms Paramar voted for successive National government Budgets which rapaciously extracted millions from Housing NZ.
The Loun family’s HNZ home could have been properly maintained and ongoing faults repaired with that $532 million.
If Ms Parmar wants to vent her anger, she should direct it at herself and her colleagues. It is National (and it’s minor support parties) that are solely to blame for our growing homeless crisis. At a time when New Zealand most needed state houses, National was disposing of them as fast as they thought they could get away with it, as well as bleeding the corporation of it’s money.
But former Dear Leader Key was not the only one “flexible” with the truth.
Fun Fact 11: A year after entering Parliament, Ms Parmar was caught out attempting to mis-use taxpayer’s money by exploiting an official government housing “roadshow” to promote her personal political profile in the Mt Roskill electorate. The Mt Roskill electorate would shortly be vacated by then-sitting MP, Phil Goff, who was planning to run for mayor of Auckland.
According to documents released under the OIA, NZ Herald journalists discovered that Housing NZ officials were attempting to cover up for Ms Parmar;
Housing officials tried to hide a National MP’s attempt to use a Government housing roadshow to raise her own public profile, documents show.
The Labour Party said National list MP Parmjeet Parmar was guilty of trying to use taxpayer money for political campaigning, and officials had been caught red-handed trying to cover it up.
Documents released to Labour MP Kris Faafoi revealed Dr Parmar wanted to co-host a meeting for the Government’s HomeStart programme near Mt Roskill, where a by-election will be triggered when current MP Phil Goff runs for the Auckland Mayoralty.
“Parmjeet Parmar has … expressed a keen interest in hosting a roadshow as she is keen to raise local profile in Mt Roskill in case of a by-election,” an email from Housing Minister Nick Smith’s private secretary said.
Supposedly “neutral” civil servants were caught out attempting to suppress Ms Parmar’s plans to use the housing roadshow for her own benefit;
There was also a further twist. The key passages which revealed that Dr Parmar wanted to use the roadshow for campaigning were redacted by housing officials in three other versions of the email released to Labour.
The passages were redacted by officials on the grounds that they were “out of scope” and to preserve “the free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to Ministers of the Crown”, their employees, or departments.
Fun Fact 12: Despite protestations, Ms Parmar did indeed contest the 2016 by-election when Phil Goff resigned from Parliament. She came second to Labour’s candidate, Michael Woodhouse – a result Ms Parmar richly deserved.
It is unknown if any of the Housing officials who attempted to cover for Ms Parmar were asked to resign. It would be surprising if there were any ensuing job losses from this scandal.
If Ms Parmar wants to use her taxpayer-funded time lambasting Housing NZ, that is her prerogative.
But at the very least, it would be helpful for New Zealanders to understand the fullness of National’s woeful under-performance in the state housing sector and the role Ms Parmar played. At the very least she exhibited no moral courage on behalf on HNZ tenants whilst she was in government.
There is something repellent about a previous government that actively sabotaged and crippled a vital state housing service – only for former Finance minister Bill English to lament about that very same service unable to fulfill it’s duty to house the most vulnerable families in our society;
“Housing Corp has done its best with the policy settings governments have given them over the last twenty or thirty years.
But you’ve just got to drive round the countryside, or round the cities and suburbs to see that it hasn’t always had the best results. So we just want to get more people helping us to solve the problem of serious housing need.”
This is the legacy Ms Parmar shares.
Parliament: Dr Parmjeet Parmar
Fairfax media: Damp state house played part in toddler’s death
Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09
Housing NZ: Annual Report 2013/14
Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16
Housing NZ: Annual Report 2016/17
Housing NZ: Annual Report 2017/18
Ministry of Social Development: Housing Register
Radio NZ: Housing NZ readied for sale – Labour
Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend
NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis
Radio NZ: Govt pushes on with state house sales
Radio NZ: State housing plan ‘not an asset sale’
Labour Party: Nats still planning to take Housing NZ dividend
Housing NZ: Our statement of performance expectations (deleted from HNZ website)
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