Editorials on State House Policy

The Dom Post last week said:

During last year’s election campaign, the National Party promised, if it won, to put the Kiwi dream of home ownership back within reach.

Part of its plan was to allow some state house tenants to buy the homes they lived in, while maintaining the state housing stock by reinvesting the money in replacement homes. It has since also committed to building another 1550 state homes over four years.

In February, it announced it would fast-track $124.5 million worth of investment in state housing by upgrading 10,000 homes and adding 520 others before July. This week, it went further.

From September, tenants can approach Housing New Zealand to discuss their purchase options, which might include their also benefiting from the state’s so-called Welcome Home mortgage guarantee scheme, which applies to low-income earners buying their first homes. …

But perhaps the most notable aspect of this policy is its stark difference from that which the last National administration implemented. Then, state houses were sold to tenants and not replaced, and Housing Corporation mortgages were on-sold to financial institutions. The state plainly wanted to get out of housing.

The motivation this time seems different. The Government of Prime Minister John Key, who began his life in a Christchurch state house, seems to be saying that state involvement must be a hand-up only to home ownership, and that those who can afford to move on should do so. It is to be hoped they take the hint.

And today’s Herald:

Tenants of state houses will shortly be given an opportunity to buy them. Housing Minister Phil Heatley has announced that houses will be offered to tenants at market valuations from September and Housing New Zealand will use the money to build new houses.

This news has been greeted with predictable disapproval from Labour, the Green Party and various advocacy groups who claim to be concerned for people in urgent need of a state house. Their preferred solution seems to be to spend whatever it takes to house everyone who cannot afford to buy a home. But since that would be an open-ended liability it is plainly impractical. So what else would the opponents of state house sales suggest?

Their policy on this issue is probbably the same as their policy on every issue – borrow and spend.

But historically, Governments of all stripes in this country have baulked at forcing comfortable state tenants to forsake their homes. These people are often elderly and settled and it would be cruel to uproot them. Since Labour and the Greens agree with the Government about that, why do they not support the gentler course of enabling these people to own their homes?

Well Phil Goff used to.

This perhaps hints at the critics’ real concern. As the Greens’ Sue Bradford put it, “Houses which are sold can be back on the market quickly, with investors and developers reaping profits. This happened in the 1990s,” she said, “and I’m sure it will happen again now.”

The Left does not like the idea of any property becoming a source of private profit, and Ms Bradford has the gall to accuse the Government of “ideology”.

Amusing if it wasn’t so sad.

The policy looks to be good for the tenants, good for their neighbourhood, good for those waiting for a state house, good for the taxpayer, the building industry and the economy. Good for everyone, in fact, except those who live on constituencies of state dependence.

Take a bow Labour and the Greens.

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