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The Government is going ahead with the next stage of selling up to 1500 state houses in Tauranga and Invercargill, despite polls showing the policy is deeply unpopular.
The Treasury has announced the sale process will proceed to "market sounding" with the release of an information memorandum on August 31, just keeping within the timetable signalled in June of market sounding commencing in August.
"Ministers and Cabinet have now considered the findings of the recently concluded iwi consultation process," the Treasury said.
"Consultation confirmed Ngati Ranginui has 115 right of first refusal (RFR) properties within the Tauranga proposed transaction area and Ngai Tahu has three RFR properties within the Invercargill proposed transaction area.
"These properties will be excluded from the open and competitive commercial process. We are working directly with Ngati Ranginui and Ngai Tahu on how to include the properties within the SHRP [social housing reform programme]. The discussions will focus on realising both the Government's RFR obligations as well as the objectives of the SHRP."
The Government announced in May this year that it had chosen Tauranga, with 1140 state houses, and Invercargill, with 370, for the first tranche of sales, which are expected to involve selling up to 1000-2000 Housing NZ properties a year for the next three years.
Ministers promised Housing New Zealand would still have at least 60,000 homes by 2017, down from about 68,000 now.
Buying consortia must include at least one registered community housing provider. Treasury officials told potential buyers at briefings in June that houses could be either sold or leased.
The country's biggest non-government social housing provider, IHC-owned Accessible Properties, confirmed today that it was still keen to buy all the available houses in Tauranga, although it was not interested in Invercargill.
Two iwi organisations are also registered community housing providers in Tauranga -- Nga Potiki a Tamapahore Trust and Mangatawa-Papamoa Blocks Inc, both representing Maori in the Papamoa area.
A trustee of both trusts, Victoria Kingi, has said in the past they were keen to buy 149 state houses in their rohe, and they were interested in joining a collective approach for the wider area.
Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said Housing NZ Minister Bill English's statement in a radio interview today that houses might be leased rather than sold "has the whiff of a backdown" after a hostile public reaction to news that Queensland's Horizon Housing wanted to buy NZ state houses.
"A recent poll showed 75 percent of New Zealanders opposed the sale of state houses to an offshore company," he said.
"Kiwis don't want billions of dollars of publicly owned land and housing flogged off to overseas landlords. And they don't buy the line that an Australian company like Horizon is more in touch with the needs of Kiwi state house tenants than locals are."
Horizon Housing has not yet registered as a community housing provider in New Zealand.
- By Simon Collins of the New Zealand Herald
Thousands of homes upgraded
Nearly 3000 state houses have been upgraded after a coroner found damp and cold conditions may have contributed to a South Auckland toddler's death.
Housing New Zealand has undertaken the repairs after a coroner's report into the death of Emma-Lita Bourne (2) was published in June this year, Radio New Zealand reported today.
Housing NZ then reviewed all repair requests and prioritised fixing damp and cold problems.
Repairs made to about 2800 state houses included upgrading insulation, installing ventilation, heaters, carpets and thermal drapes, the broadcaster reported.
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said she was impressed with Housing NZ's response.
"They put a maintenance action team in place in June of this year and I tell you they've been going great guns.
"I'm really impressed with the numbers of properties that they've been upgrading and getting maintenance teams into."
- NZME. News Service