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18th of January 2018

Politics



Government announces end to state home selloff

ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF

Housing Minister Phil Twyford has put a stop to state house sales, halting a 2500-house transfer in Christchurch.

The new Government has put a full stop on state house sales today, halting a 2500-house transfer in Christchurch.

Making the announcement at the famous first state home in Miramar, Wellington, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said housing was at the core of her Government's agenda.

"Our belief is that housing is at the heart of what makes our community strong, and everyone deserves to have a warm, dry and affordable home."

Housing Minister Phil Twyford, state house tenant Vinise Nysee, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Rongotai MP Paul ... ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF

Housing Minister Phil Twyford, state house tenant Vinise Nysee, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Rongotai MP Paul Eagle cut a cake at the announcement at the first state home in Wellington.

​Families in 2500 state homes in Christchurch would no longer be switching landlords next year.

READ MORE: Gone in two years: Housing NZ stock plummets by nearly 4000 in transfer to other providers

"This will stop the transfer of up to 2500 state houses in Christchurch. Tenants in the suburbs of Shirley, Bryndwr and Riccarton had been told they were likely to have a new landlord by mid next year," Housing Minister Phil Twyford said.

"This week they will receive letters telling them their homes will not be sold. I'm pleased these families will be able to enjoy Christmas without the uncertainty this sale would create.

"This was quite advanced. The former Government had been in Australia trying to pitch the sale of the state houses."

The previous National government transferred thousands of state homes to community social housing providers. Labour heavily criticised the move.

A plaque commemorating the state house in Miramar, Wellington. ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF

A plaque commemorating the state house in Miramar, Wellington.

Ardern said this was just "shuffling the deck chairs".

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Twyford said if the Government had just built houses instead of shuffling them around, homelessness would not be as much of an issue.

"The past Government ran down the total stock of state housing by 5000 while they were in office. If instead they had built 2000 state houses a year we would have 18,000 extra state houses and simply wouldn't have the homelessness problem that we do right now.

Vinise Nysse cuts a cake celebrating the 80th birthday of her state home. Nysee says the new Labour government makes her ... ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF

Vinise Nysse cuts a cake celebrating the 80th birthday of her state home. Nysee says the new Labour government makes her feel safe in her tenancy.

"Community housing providers have an important role to play in housing those in need, but the first and last provider of public housing must be the state," Twyford said.

Former social housing minister Amy Adams stressed that the majority of sold off stock was still used as social housing – and that many were the wrong size or unfit to stay on as social housing.

National leader Bill English said the transformation of badly-suited homes would now be slower because all of the work would be done by one agency.

The first Labour Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage carries a dining table into the first state home in Miramar. Today ... ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY

The first Labour Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage carries a dining table into the first state home in Miramar. Today the 11th one took a dining table out to cut a cake on.

"It's just another one of these silly things where Labour is opposed to the private sector even though it's working fine," English said.

He said community social housing providers were doing as well as Housing New Zealand – and in some cases better.

"They get to know their area, their locality and neighbourhood much better, and over time they will do a better job at rebuilding and renewing the housing stock."

'A DAMN GOOD VICTORY'

Christchurch state house tenant Gail Scott said the halt to the sale of her home was "a damn good victory" and the best Christmas presents she had ever had.

She had fought the sale since she got a letter last year informing her of it.

"It was a bit confusing, yes we could stay in our homes, it said – unless they wanted to bulldoze it to build new ones."

Scott has lived in the Brookside Tce house for over two decades and did not want to move.

"I like the street. It's quiet, we're in amongst private homeowners. And for someone like me who doesn't drive I'm in a very good position for the buses.

"No one could guarantee me that I would go to a quiet area I liked."

While organising other state house tenants, she signed them up to vote and was happy the turnout rate in her area was up considerably.

"We're not doormats and we will not be walked on. We will get up and fight."

SOME SALES MAY STILL HAPPEN

Twyford left himself some room to sell underperforming stock – but this would be a very small number.

"While this is the end of large-scale state housing sell-offs, Housing NZ will be rejuvenating its stock by building and buying newer homes where they are most needed and selling houses that are no longer fit for purpose.

"Sales to renew and grow the stock are quite different from the systematic large-scale sales used by the previous government to reduce the role of Housing NZ."

Twyford indicated he was not interested in buying back any of the sold state homes.

Vinise Nysee, who lives in the historic home where the announcement was made, said the return of a Labour government made her feel safe in her tenancy.

All three parties in the coalition government campaigned on stopping the sales.

 - Stuff

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