Government not keen on state housing
Hundreds of state houses in Wellington are empty while hundreds of people wait to move into a new home.
The Government says the houses are empty because they need earthquake strengthening, methamphetamine de-contamination or are earmarked for sale. Is this a good argument? No doubt there is some truth in what the Government says. Some houses have been used as meth labs and cannot be re-let until they are cleaned.
In Wellington, nobody disputes the need for earthquake protection, and no doubt some state houses need to be upgraded for that reason.
Finally, perhaps some houses need to be sold because they don’t suit the needs of the local market.
But that’s not the end of this argument. Meth contamination is an area where some experts say officials have overreacted.
The presence of traces of meth in a house, according to this argument, may not justify drastic decontamination.
Clearly earthquake-proofing of houses is also partly a judgment call within the regulatory bounds.
And finally, which houses are unsuitable for use and which should be sold in order to fund housing in other areas of greater need, is clearly another judgment call.
In the greater Wellington area there are 523 people who need houses.
People who live in this region know that there is a genuine housing need and that there is absolutely no case for a fire sale of local state houses to meet the even greater housing needs of Auckland.
This is not an ‘‘area of low demand’’, although a statement by Minister Bill English might be taken as claiming this. If Wellington state houses are to be sold, the money must be reinvested here, not somewhere else.
The Government’s argument that state houses are of the wrong sort or in the wrong place is familiar.
But there is also the suspicion that the Government is fundamentally averse to building more state houses.
It has tried for years to interest private charities and organisations to investing in social housing, with very little success.
This suggests that its goal is largely ideological.
It feels more comfortable with private social housing than with state housing.
The state landlord’s heart isn’t in the business it is operating, despite the goal it has set of building 2000 new homes in the next two years. Critics say far more homes will be needed.