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Audio: Heatley Becomes Heated Over State Housing

Scoop Audio: Heatley Gets Heated Over State Housing

Today in the House National's Housing spokesperson Phil Heatley and Labour Minister Steve Maharey crossed swords regarding state housing policy. Mr Heatley was of the opinion that many low income New Zealanders were missing out on the chance to live in a state house due to tenants with comparatively high incomes staying put.

Mr Heatley's questioning of government state housing policy was greeted with some amazement by Mr Maharey who blamed National for any state housing shortage because of their policy of selling state houses in the 1990s. According to Mr Maharey under National 13,000 state houses were sold - the vast majority of which were bought by property speculators rather than long time tenants. Following the barny in the House over state housing policy Scoop contacted National's Phil Heatley to see what National would be doing about people occupying state houses with better than modest incomes.


Listen to Phil Heatley explain what National would do about people with relatively high incomes occupying state houses:

Scoop Audio.Scoop Streaming Audio: National's Phil Heatley talks state housing Click here to download file
(mp3)

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Uncorrected transcript of Heatley vs Maharey

State Houses—Household Incomes

5. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Housing: Is the North Island State household with the highest total net assessable income earning $1,825.73 a week and the South Island State household with the highest total net assessable income earning $1,391.80 a week as at 23 March 2006; if not, what are the highest incomes?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Housing: Yes, I can confirm that those are the highest net assessable incomes, and that those tenants were housed before the introduction of the social allocation system for State housing by the Labour-led Government in 2000.

Phil Heatley: How can the Minister let people who earn $70,000, $80,000, and $90,000 a year after tax stay in a State home when 14,000 people are on the waiting list, poor people are on the streets, and struggling young families are living in garages?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have to point out to the member that the high-income tenants living in State houses are a legacy of National’s failed market rent system. Those people have signed a tenancy agreement and they have rights. However, we are actively managing those tenants to encourage them to either buy a house or move into the private rental market. I tell that member that it is a little rich for National to have sold 13,000 houses and then for him to come in here and complain about a waiting list.

Georgina Beyer: What proportion of new Housing New Zealand Corporation tenants qualify for an income-related rent?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Labour-led Government scrapped National’s market rents in 2000, and introduced a new social allocation system that prioritises those on low incomes with the greatest housing need. Prior to that, one could have got the $300,000 annual income that Mr Key was talking about and got into one of those houses under National. Ninety-nine percent of new tenants housed last month, who qualified for an income-related rent, had an average net assessable income of $261.55 per week.

Judy Turner: Has the Department of Building and Housing, in monitoring rates of income for State housing tenants, determined at which point it would be ideal to approach a tenant with an offer for the tenant to purchase the property; if so, what is that income rate, and if the department has not made that calculation, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We would not be approaching the person to purchase a State house. We still have to get back the 13,000 houses that we lost under the National Government. However the trigger for talking to people about moving into an alternative private sector rental property or buying a house comes as they approach a market rent.

Phil Heatley: How fair is it that a Christchurch household can have a $70,000 income, but that cannot include the income of an adult son who is a chef, and does not include the income of another adult son who works in telecommunications and also lives at home, yet all the while poorer families go without housing?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I reiterate to the member opposite that Labour’s track record over 6 years of housing people who were left in need by National’s policy is simply and utterly outstanding. If the member has a particular complaint about a particular house, he should give it to me and I will have a look.

Georgina Beyer: What is the Government planning to do to make sure people earning nearly $100,000 per annum are not occupying State houses?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government has been, of course, extremely active in that area, unlike the previous National Government. For example, the mortgage insurance scheme was designed to get people into houses, and we prioritise people in State houses. The KiwiSaver scheme is designed to get people into houses. The new share equity scheme is designed to get people into houses. We are very active, because we believe that people should be in their own houses—preferably owning them—unlike the National Party.

Phil Heatley: Does the Minister think it is fair that a Christchurch family on a $70,000-plus income, with its two adult sons, remains in a State house so that—and this is the tenants’ quote—“the boys can save some money for overseas travel”, and “they can pay off loans for some vehicles”, while poor families go without housing?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would point out that those people pay a market rent, I would point out that we will be encouraging them to take up options like purchase or a shift into the private market, and I would point out that under the National Government it was the policy of that party to put as many high-income people into those houses as it possibly could, and when it sold them it sold them to speculators. It is unreal that this member is raising these questions.

Phil Heatley: Where is the Minister’s compassion and good sense of what is fair when a family can earn over $70,000 after tax, not declare its adult sons’ incomes, and save for overseas travel, yet all the while thousands of needy families are languishing on the waiting list?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I repeat that 99 percent of people who got a house in the last month were income-related tenants. Under that member’s National Government people routinely had high incomes and got rental properties, and speculators bought a large proportion of those 13,000 houses—which we could use right now.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is getting to a stage where the treatment of various members of this House is different. The simple fact is that I counted 10 people over on the Opposition benches shouting during that last answer and the answer before that. The fact is that if we are required to keep quiet while questions are being asked, there should be a modicum of silence when questions are being answered. I do not mind there being one or two interjectors, but it makes a leaderless rabble to have 10 people interjecting—not the social welfare spokesperson but everybody. That is what is happening over there. I think it is patently unfair, and I say they should be stopped.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I ask members please to keep the barracking at acceptable levels so all members in the House can hear. That is the right of members.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a press article about a four-income family saving for overseas holidays.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a valuation report documenting that that household has a Housing New Zealand ownership in a Housing New Zealand – owned home.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

ENDS

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