Housing 'sell-off' criticised

A ''plan'' to sell almost a third of Dunedin's state housing is another example of the Government ''neglecting the regions'', Dunedin North MP David Clark says.

Housing New Zealand's ''state housing demand model'', released under the Official Information Act (OIA), showed the department intended to sell 476 Dunedin state houses in the next 10 years, leaving 993 in the city, Dr Clark said.

The Dunedin ''sell-off'' was another example of the Government ''neglecting the regions'' and part of wider plan to shift resources north. An extra 2839 state houses were planned for Auckland over the decade, he said.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said Dr Clark's claims were incorrect and it was a case of ''desperate scaremongering by the Labour Party on the basis of out-dated [2012] figures''.

''It was a statistical analysis by an official over where demand could be for state housing by 2024, nothing more.

''There is a huge difference between a projection and a plan.''

Decisions to sell properties were made each year, based on demand.

''The reality is that in communities like Dunedin, like Invercargill, we have low demand for state housing and we have got very high demand in places like Queenstown and Tauranga.''

Dr Clark maintained the plan would hit the regions hard.

''Without state houses, these people will be forced into the private rental market, where they will pay higher rents and have less security of tenure.''

Other parts of the South would also suffer, including Invercargill, set to lose 185, or 53%, of its stock, Clutha 24 (65%), Gore 29 (54%) and Waitaki 19 (16%).

It was also concerning it took an Official Information Act request for the information to become public''It almost appears they are trying to sweep it under the carpet.''

Housing New Zealand general communications manager Bryony Hilless said in a statement it did not need as many ''properties in smaller centres where there is less demand''.

The demand forecasting it carried out in 2012 was ''one of several factors'' which informed its ''asset management strategy''.

Apart from the focus away from smaller centres, there was also reduced need for three-bedroom homes, in favour of two-bedroom and four-bedroom-plus homes. Communications manager Cassandra Rivers said ''generally speaking'' demand was ''not as high in Dunedin as other areas''.

Presbyterian Support Otago chief executive Gillian Bremner was concerned about the effect a sell-off could have on housing availability for low-income families and said the plan was also ''Auckland-centric''.

''It's a real concern that money is being diverted from this city to foster a burgeoning growth in Auckland that I don't think is sustainable or necessary.''

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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