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Public Housing Advocates Warn Government’s Review Of Kāinga Ora Must Not Usher In New Era Of Privatisation By Stealth

Published: Mon 20 May 2024 05:44 PM
A review led by Bill English into Kāinga Ora has been described by public housing advocates as a way to reduce the state’s role in public housing, despite overwhelming evidence suggesting we need the state to build more state-owned houses to solve the housing crisis.
The Luxon-led government has said it won’t sell off state houses. However the Bill English report makes recommendations to create community housing associations, which Public Housing Futures and Child Poverty Action Group warn could see the state withdraw from building the public homes we need.
New Zealand has the lowest level of public housing in the OECD with public housing stock just 3.4% of all housing. The OECD average is 7%, and the Netherlands 34.1%.
Under the previous National-led government Mr English was involved in a programme to privatise state housing and shrink Government responsibility through transfers to third party providers, evicting tenants after reviewing eligibility, and selling land to private developers.
"No matter where you look globally, the evidence is clear - public housing is the only lasting solution to our housing crisis, yet successive governments have under-maintained and under-resourced the programme, prioritising private market profits over making sure that everyone has a home," says Vanessa Cole, spokesperson for Public Housing Futures.
"We need more public housing, not more social housing. The real risk is that the Government will usher in privatisation by stealth by reducing their role in building public housing, and opening up low-income housing to private providers and investors. This will be to the detriment of stable and affordable homes for everyone," says Ms Cole.
"Increasing the role of private market players in our public housing landscape is effectively the Government subsidising the private market with no guarantee of long-term, stable and affordable housing for people," says Ms Cole.
The two groups created A People’s Review of Kāinga Ora to tell a different story about public housing and the important role it plays in providing stable and truly affordable homes to people, and thriving communities. The groups have also analysed Kāinga Ora’s finances, to help understand the reason the agency was in debt.
Kāinga Ora was forced to borrow and sell off land in state housing neighbourhoods in order to pay for years of neglect.
Kāinga Ora, under the previous government, began to build houses again and it is important to maintain this in order to achieve a greater presence of public rental housing in the housing landscape.
"If we put things into perspective, the debt that Kāinga Ora has is essentially an accounting convention. The government could have funded it as equity. This debt is Government-backed so its current level is unlikely to concern financial markets, and its so-called sustainability depends entirely on a political choice by the Government to support Kāinga Ora and its operations", says Alan Johnson, housing spokesperson for CPAG.
The Government has already announced plans which skew demand through increasing evictions, forcing people in emergency housing into private rentals, and suggesting even more landlord subsidies. At the same time, all over the country, Kāinga Ora developments have been put on hold, postponed, shrunk, reconsidered or cancelled.
"Public housing provides stable and secure homes for people so they can put down roots in a community and be able to participate more fully. Making public housing marginal and temporary will lead to more people being forced into an expensive and insecure private rental market, and increase homelessness," says Cole.

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