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Select committee indicts Govt housing policy

Labour
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"The Social Services Committee's report on its inquiry into substandard rural housing in East Cape and Northland is an indictment of the Government's housing policy," says Labour's housing spokesperson Graham Kelly.

The report, tabled at Parliament today, is the result of a select committee inquiry intitated by Mr Kelly in June 1998.

"The committee has confirmed the housing crisis that Labour has been pointing out and the Government has been ignoring," says Mr Kelly. "Its recommendations line up closely with Labour policy and its findings expose the Government's failure to act.

"While Tony Ryall boasts of selling state houses and flaunts a few political show-homes in Auckland, the select committee confirms that Housing New Zealand 'has not met the demand for rental accommodation in these rural areas,' nor have private sector landlords."

As a result, the report says, "Caravans, sheds, converted garages, derelict houses and even cars are commonly used to provide shelter. The homes will usually consist of one or two rooms, which are used for sleeping, living and all other domestic functions. They are often without an adequate running water supply, may have no electricity, laundry or kitchen facilities, can often be quite overcrowded, and may have no proper sewerage scheme. In winter the homes are often damp and cold, which can cause health problems, particularly in children."

"Like Labour, the committee has seen the link between poor housing and problems with health and education," Mr Kelly says. "It notes that the health consequences often include depression, home accidents, hypothermia and communicable diseases."

The report adds: "Some families are repeatedly infested by scabies because of a lack of water for cleaning, and chronic asthma and glue ear are prevalent among children in particular. Third World diseases in Northland include meningococcal (meningitis) disease, tuberculosis and rheumatic fever."

The report's recommendations include giving families with dependent children urgent priority for assistance into better housing, improving co-ordination of social service, iwi and local authority agencies in the affected areas, and improving access to the Low Deposit Rural Lending Scheme.

"Labour's housing policy meets the committee's concerns and more," Mr Kelly says. "Scrapping market rents for low-income state house tenants, combined with new community and rural housing initiatives, will go a long way towards turning around the crisis."

"Labour's plan to establish Special Housing Action Zones in areas of serious need, where there is a lot of multiply-owned land, is precisely what areas like Northland and East Cape need. In these zones we'll see the kind of co-ordination of agencies that the select committee is asking for.

"More than that, Labour will charge Housing New Zealand with responsibility for developing specific plans to increase the supply of houses in these areas. The plans will concentrate on a community housing strategy for the area and where possible will involve joint-venture arrangements with Maori organisations, local authorities, and the not-for-profit housing sector."

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