Dom Post on Housing NZ

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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