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National to reintroduce market rents

5 September 2005

National to reintroduce market rents and sell state houses

National's plans to reintroduce market rents for state house tenants and sell off the state housing stock is another sign that the hard-right faction within the party is winning the policy battle, Housing Minister Steve Maharey said today.

"After Labour applied pressure, National finally posted their housing policy on their website today," Steve Maharey said. "Once you get past the weasel words, it confirms what many have expected – National will reintroduce market rents for state house tenants and sell state houses to help meet the cost of tax cuts.

"National's housing policy will send tens of thousands of children into poverty. This is a high price to pay for giving the richest three per cent of earners a $93 a week tax cut.

"Eliminating income related rents will mean that state house tenants will be worse off by an average of $35 a week. In Auckland, they will lose $50 a week under National.

"There is no doubt that National's plan will lead to dramatic increases in poverty, rising levels of homelessness and an overall collapse in the social progress made in the past six years."

Disagreement over income related rents has been a key dividing line within the National caucus since Labour's election in 1999. Bill English's support for income related rents led to Murray McCully's sacking from the housing portfolio in 2002.

At the time a senior National MP was quoted as saying Bill English's National Party did not want to be seen as "stalking a whole lot of low-income tenants". After David Carter's appointment to the portfolio, housing remained a sore point for the caucus with National issuing only one statement on housing between July 2002 and July 2005.

National's housing policy also includes a plan to sell state houses to tenants.

"This is the same plan National introduced in the 90s. Of the 13,000 state houses National sold, only 3,000 were sold to tenants. The majority were sold to speculators who provided the cash to fund National's tax cuts.

"If National gets into government, this is exactly what will happen again.

"Maurice Williamson told the Sunday Star Times in 2002 that National was never going to win the state housing vote. With today's policy National is punishing state house tenants to meet the political demands of their wealthy, big-business backers."

Note: National's housing policy was issued without a media release. It can be read at - http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=5118

Attached: Fact's behind National's housing plans

FACTS BEHIND NATIONAL'S HOUSING PLANS

Rents for HNZC tenants rose 106 per cent between 1992 and 1999. Private rentals increased by only 23 per cent and inflation rose only 12 per cent for the same period. In the 1990s National choose profit over people and ran Housing NZ at a profit, which was $122m in 1997/98 – made off low-income families.

The Salvation Army labelled National’s housing experiment as disastrous and linked increasing market rents to an increase in food parcel demand.

Of the 13,000 state houses National sold off in the 1990s only 3000 were to HNZ tenants through their home buy scheme. Market rents led to a dramatic rise in reliance on the accommodation supplement. Before Labour introduced income related rents, National was budgeting $1billion per year for the accommodation supplement for 2003 alone – almost 50 per cent more than occurred under Labour even with a strong housing market.

ENDS

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