by Holly Walker
Just like it is all around the country, Housing New Zealand is busy demolishing state houses and selling off the land to private developers in Sandringham.
It’s a tragedy, not only for those who have now lost their homes in the area, but also a tragic missed opportunity to invest in more of the affordable, medium-density housing so badly needed in Auckland.
Instead of threatening to override Auckland Council’s plan for a compact city by legislating to open up more land outside the city limits for more urban sprawl and McMansions, Housing Minister Nick Smith should focus on his core business.
Instead of selling it off to the highest bidder, he could direct Housing New Zealand to use the now bare land in Sandringham to rebuild affordable, medium-density homes. It wouldn’t all have to be social housing – we know this Government doesn’t like social housing in suburbs it has decided are “too good” for that; after all Prime Minister John Key set the tone when he said that building state houses at Hobsonville Point would be “economic vandalism” – a mix of social housing, affordable houses for private sale, and Government-built “rent-to-buy” homes as proposed in our Home for Life policy paper would be ideal. That’s what we were supposed to get at Hobsonville before this Government gutted that promising development.
Meanwhile, the same story is being played out all over the country as Housing New Zealand empties its homes on the flimsy pretext of earthquake code compliance, leaves them vacant for months, and then demolishes or sells them without replacing them with social housing. Last year, for the first time in recent memory, Housing New Zealand sold or demolished more houses than it built or bought. And while they have promised to build 2000 new homes in the next two years, at the rate they are getting rid of their old stock, this won’t even result in an increase in total state housing numbers.
Auckland – and increasingly the rest of New Zealand – has a housing affordability crisis, and this Government’s answer is to sell off valuable land to private developers and leave the most vulnerable to fend for themselves in the private rental market. It’s simply not good enough.