Dom Post on Housing NZ

October 27th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

For every state-house tenant who stays put despite having the means to move on, there is another person living in a caravan, a camping ground, substandard housing or a boarding house.

It is a simple equation, but one those who subscribe to the notion of a “state house for life” appear unable to grasp.

The consequence of indulging those who can provide for themselves is to shut out those who cannot. Housing New Zealand does not have enough homes to accommodate both groups. It should not try.

The only alternative would be to increase from 70,000 to 360,000 the number of houses owned by the state. And if anyone finds a spare $87 billion in capital for the Government, could they let Bill English know as I think he would be keen to have it.

An expectation has arisen that securing a state house is equivalent to being granted a house for life.

It is not an expectation that is contained in law, but a de facto understanding that is adhered to by staff. Tenants in good standing are allowed to stay for as long as they desire.

The policy applies equally to those who need state houses – the disabled, the mentally ill and the poor – and those who do not – the 5000 Housing NZ tenants who earn enough to pay full market rents and could just as easily rent privately.

That is foolish and unaffordable, and Housing Minister Phil Heatley is right to signal change, starting with reviewable, limited-term tenancies.

In the private sector, your tenancy can be terminated with 90 days notice. A five year fixed term is still a huge amount more stability, than you would get privately.

No-one wants to see the elderly shifted out of the neighbourhoods in which they have spent their lives, but it makes perfectly good sense to shift an elderly person or couple from the three or four-bedroom home in which they raised their children to a one or two-bedroom home down the street.

Especially as there is a family in need, waiting for that larger bedroom house.

The state housing provider should be judged on how adequately the most vulnerable are housed, not on how many homes it owns.

I agree, but sadly I am not sure Labour does.

If that means funding the building of new homes in Auckland and Wellington by selling homes in provincial areas, so be it. If that means reducing the oversupply of three-bedroom homes so it can build more one, two and five-bedroom properties, so be it.

And if it means transferring parts of its property portfolio to community organisations, as recommended by the advisory group, so be it.

Effectiveness, not ideology, should be the Government’s watchword.

Effectiveness not ideology? Now I am sure Labour won’t agree!

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14 Responses to “Dom Post on Housing NZ”

  1. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    In the private sector, your tenancy can be terminated with 90 days notice. A five year fixed term is still a huge amount more stability, than you would get privately.

    You can sign a five-year fixed term lease with a private sector landlord. I imagine a lot of them would be quite big fans of people offering to do that.

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  2. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    What is this obsession with providing big houses to people with big families? If you want eight kids then four sets of bunk beds in two rooms. When I was a young lad I lived with my older sister and her family. I shared a room with three nephews. We survived.

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  3. malcolm (1,952 comments) says:

    The only alternative would be to increase from 70,000 to 360,000 the number of houses owned by the state.

    Only if you think it’s inevitable and desirable that the government should be supplying people with houses. I don’t.

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  4. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    This is an issue that has been debated then shelved by successive labour and national governments since the 1970’s. The concept of a five year agreement is sensible and should be enough time for the leg up that people require. Clearly some people will still require asisstance and there will be the opportunity to extend terms and there will be other people who figure out ways to manipulate whatever system is used but conceptually it is a major step in the right direction.

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  5. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    The concept of a five year agreement is sensible and should be enough time for the leg up that people require.

    It would probably also mean that state houses will have to be practically rebuilt every five years instead of every ten or so now.

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  6. trout (939 comments) says:

    I can see a sector of the population continuing to breed to keep benefits and a state house beyond the time limits if the example wheeled out by TV news is a good example (10 kids and totally dependent on the State as of right).

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  7. GJ (329 comments) says:

    Another area that HNZ needs to look at is insensitive to encourage the tenants to look after the properties. I have observed tenants moving into brand new homes and then trashing them within months.
    Surely all new tenants should be placed in the older housing stock first and then if they show that they look after it, they then qualify for a newer home.
    This at least would bring some degree of accountability.
    It is a priviliage to be able to have a home and not a right!

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  8. tvb (4,422 comments) says:

    Labour’s answer is to build more state houses. For long term tenants wishing to stay they should be offered to buy the house or move on or any tenant for that matter if their housing needs have changed. That is rather than evict them offer to sell them the house and with the capital build/buy another state house.

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  9. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    If that means funding the building of new homes in Auckland and Wellington by selling homes in provincial areas, so be it. If that means reducing the oversupply of three-bedroom homes so it can build more one, two and five-bedroom properties, so be it.

    Dead right. And there is actual demand for the old classic state houses, they can be tarted up into quite snazzy little homes given a young couple with enough income and enthusiasm.

    And if we’re going to have housing by the state, it’s time they looked at upping the density with some basic cheap inner city apartment buildings, so that there are some flow-on benefits for the public transport infrastructure too. If people are poor and need cheap housing, don’t locate the cheap housing miles out in the suburbs where people will need to tick up a car they can’t afford on HP in order to go anywhere.

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  10. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    Remind me why the state is in housing at all? Or why public assistance for a person depends on the identity of the owner of the building you’re living in?

    Folks how poor does New Zealand have to get before stupidity like this is finally knocked on the head? It’d all very well for the Dom Post to complain that state homes for life deprives the needy, but it rather misses the elephant in the room which is how mad it is to tie benefits to the state happening to be the owner of the building you live in.

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  11. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    Did I read that right? We own 70,000 state houses? WTF????????????????????????

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  12. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Ben- in reality there is no need for the state to own any property at all- they could lease from private landlords or subsidize recipients (though that may be an effective subsidy to private landlords). I’m not sure what you would do with those unable to work or retired people who cannot support themselves or singles who are long term unemployed (where are the jobs going to come from?). I’m not particularly keen to see all these people sleeping on the streets or begging like in the US. I’m not sure the next generation of children from those households would really be able to contribute much to society either if they were bought up in the street or shelters and had interrupted schooling.

    That said- seeing HNZ owns 1 in 25 of all NZ houses you’d have to think there is huge scope for a more effective use of these huge assets. Selling land in expensive areas like Auckland and using the money re-develop new areas (hopefully close to employment and schools) or partnerships with iwi make a lot of sense. The danger here is that you would simply be creating a whole new bureaucratic apparatus that would be a further drain on the state. SHAG certainly has some good ideas, but a lot of further debate needs to go into how you implememnt any new strategy.

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  13. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    Offer the poor a subsidy to rent privately, and guess how much ALL domestic rents will go up by?

    (Suggestion: Exactly the value of that subsidy)

    A nice system for landlords. (I thought NZ needed to encourage people to invest in other areas??) Not so nice for renters.

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  14. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    how many of the 70,000 state homes have sky dishes?

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