National aware of State Housing sell-off risks


I’ve criticised National a number of times about the handling of the Housing New Zealand “asset sale” because the government isn’t in control of the message with Labour pushing it very hard as another John Key asset sale where people with no money are left on the streets.

Cabinet papers from December – prepared by the offices of the Minister of Finance Bill English and the Minister for Social Housing Paula Bennett – which were released by Treasury late yesterday show that overall, Housing New Zealand will shed up to 8000 properties by 2017.

These papers were dumped late on a day before a long weekend. ?The Government doesn’t want these papers to be discussed in the media.

The Government said access to affordable housing would increase as community providers boosted their capacity.

But the papers also outlined major risks, including the need to ensure community providers were financial sustainable and that tenants were protected against unfair treatment.

Officials also conceded there were still “uncertainties” about how much the state house sales would net and the cost to taxpayers of widening the income-related rent scheme and other subsidies.

Ministers were also encouraged to steer the public conversation away from “how many state houses are there?” to “how are we meeting the housing needs of poor and vulnerable New Zealanders?”.

Six public meetings will be held over the next two months before the Government announces which which areas it is considering for state house sales at the end of March.

Regional consultation with community housing providers and iwi will begin in April and Ministers expect to kick off commercial negotiations in June.

The fact there are “uncertainties” at this late stage of the process is just irresponsible governing. ?We saw what happens to David Cunliffe’s Labour when they rolled out undercooked policy. ?It provides huge holes for the opposition and critics to drive a train through.

At that stage, you are busy defending and explaining. ? ?It is bad strategy, and this government should know better.

Although the aims of the government remain laudable – to rationalise housing stock – their lack of control over the way it is being communicated and ongoing ‘uncertainties’ are going to continue to provide an unnecessary distraction this year. ?Throwing people out of their homes is an emotional issue, especially when the government pockets the money and says “you find your own place”.

And until people can see that there is a place to go?before the government starts turfing them out, I can’t see how they can come out of this smelling of roses.