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Government perspectives on housing - Turia

Hon. Tariana Turia
21 July 2001 Speech Notes

Speech to Habitat for Humanity Annual Conference "Government perspectives on housing", Hamilton

Tena koutou e hui nei, i tenei ata, nga mihi ki a koutou katoa. Nga mihi hoki ki te mana o ratou o te awa o Waikato me ona kahui rangatira, tena koutou. Nga mihi hoki ki Te Atairangikaahu te mokopuna o te motu, tena koe, a tena hoki koutou o Tainui.

Why is housing so important?

Living in safe, affordable, spacious and good quality housing has a direct impact on who we are ¡V our health, our ability to get along with each other, our vision of what the future holds for ourselves and our whanau, hapu and iwi. The desirable effects of adequate housing have a ripple effect beyond those directly affected ¡V through to schools the health sector, welfare agencies.

It is very much like the waters of the mighty Waikato River. The health of that river like the health of the Whanganui River is directly related we believe, to the health of the people. I view the house and indeed the home in much the same way.

Stable and adequate housing contributes to health and educational outcomes, and to the ability to contribute positively as an active member of our community. Housing is central to a range of other social indicators and this government believes that achieving a minimum level of housing quality is a part of what makes a cohesive community.

What role should the Government play?

A caring state has a responsibility as the intervener of last resort to ensure that the more vulnerable members of the society have access to those facilities that the more affluent have access to, this includes good quality houses. This government rejects the notion that poor people only deserve poor quality houses. Too many poor quality houses and too many good quality state houses have been allowed to deteriorate.

This coalition government has had enough.
Enough of the sale of state houses.
Enough of the neglect of those state houses we still have.
Enough of the appalling state of many houses both rural and urban throughout Aotearoa.

The Labour Alliance Government has re-introduced income-related rents. The results are already evident:
„X 85% of HNZ tenants meet the needs-based criteria for income-related rents now have an average of $45 more to spend on essentials every week
„X A recent report from the NZ Council of Christian Social Services indicates a reduction in food-bank demand from state house tenants, since the introduction of income-related rents.

We have relieved the pressure on many New Zealand families. We have delivered on a commitment we made to New Zealanders during the election campaign.

We are aware that we are not able to satisfy all the housing demands immediately. Which is why we have launched a work programme, which will set in train a rational coherent strategy future governments can build on, if they in turn are committed to decent affordable housing for New Zealanders?

Housing issues facing this Government

A report produced by Victoria University in early 2000 discussed the issue of poverty in New Zealand. That report found that poverty was more likely to be found in Housing New Zealand houses than in any other in this country.

My colleague Mark Gosche tells of primary schools in his electorate where families have moved 12 to 14 times during the primary schooling of their children, trying to find affordable housing.

The introduction of income related rents have helped stop this type of mobility. There are however still issues related to poverty as an impediment to decent affordable housing.

It is not just the poverty in straight income, it is a poverty of people who have been subjected to behaviours and systems which have impoverished them. A type of poverty, born of a society, who in its recent past was known as a society who did not care. It is a poverty of a people, who for a long time have been socially and economically excluded from the life of our society.

We are committed to removing those structural impediments that ensure people remain in a poverty trap.

We have stopped the sale of state housing resources.

We are committed to increasing state housing numbers.

We have a programme of renovation and modernisation of at least 9000 state rental units.

We will not be diverted by any accusations.

What we have done is take the first step in a process of making housing affordable for those on low incomes. The challenge now is to grow the social housing sector, and the range of housing options available to those in need.

We have made a start on rebuilding the Government¡¦s ability to offer real housing assistance to those with the greatest need, but it will take time. We cannot do everything within one term or two terms and we most certainly see ourselves here for the long run.

Special Housing Action Zones

Last year, the Government introduced the Special Housing Action Zones scheme, signalled in the Labour Party Manifesto, which aims to target some of the nations worst living conditions, housing in Northland, the East Coast and urban South Auckland.

Sadly the majority of people affected in the rural areas of Northland and the East Coast/ Bay of Plenty are Maori whanau. The targeting by this coalition government is recognition of the existence of poverty in rural New Zealand. For too long the conditions for people in rural New Zealand, at best overlooked, at worst ignored.

This is a four-year pilot programme that targets areas with very high levels of housing need. Like any pilot programme it will be evaluated and adaptations will certainly be made were necessary.

The intention is to provide whanau living in poor housing conditions, with access to a wide range of housing initiatives, including rental housing or home ownership assistance.

The important difference between SHAZ and these other housing programmes is that SHAZ targets communities rather than individual households. SHAZ has a commitment and is ideally suited to bottom-up solutions. It is expected to deliver results through strong partnerships between the community, and Crown agencies.

The coalition government has committed $30 million over a four year period to the SHAZ pilot.

This Labour Alliance government is committed to encouraging construction and renovation in areas where whanau are moving back to their home of origin.

Where to from here?

We have made a start and we know we still have a long way to go. We need to walk that road with people who are similarly committed. We cannot do this by ourselves. We need to continue putting the building blocks in place for an economically sustainable social housing sector, that makes the best use of scarce resources, and encourages leadership, cooperation and goodwill amongst New Zealanders.

Here are some of the themes that the Government will explore over the coming year:

On 1 July 2001, all the following agencies except the Ministry of Housing became a single Crown entity, Housing New Zealand Corporation. As a result, low-income families and our third sector housing partners should expect a seamless service.

These agencies included:

„h Housing New Zealand(HNZ), a Crown company that owns and manages the state housing portfolio

„h Housing Corporation of New Zealand (HCNZ), a Crown entity that provides ownership assistance and co-ordinates special housing action zone activity

„h Community Housing Limited, a subsidiary of HCNZ that owns and manages a portfolio of 1,200 houses rented on commercial terms to emergency and supported housing providers

„h The Housing Policy Group of the Ministry of Social Policy (MSP), responsible for policy advice to Ministers

In this way we have fulfilled the election campaign commitment to integrate policy and service provision.

With the new establishment of Housing New Zealand Corporation we are in a position to offer both rental and lending assistance and it is expected that people living in substandard and temporary housing will have greater access to transitional housing from which to move into supported home ownership.

This is already being trialed under the Special Housing Action Zones Scheme. In a rural housing project on Maori land at Takou Bay (far North), for instance, HNZ has built four rental units. These will be occupied by families who have graduated from home ownership education courses, and are saving for the deposit to build their own homes.

This Labour Alliance government is placing greater emphasis on ensuring that different sectors work together to maximise social outcomes. For Housing New Zealand Corporation, this will mean that some housing projects (such as those that target Maori in areas of high social deprivation) will be required to generate non-housing outcomes, like improved health and opportunities for employment and training.

As a Minister of Housing she identified that improved housing conditions improved the health of the people.

We envisage that our improvement in Housing projects will create opportunities for employment and training. We are determined that local communities increase their skills to access wider opportunities.

An important work stream of the new agency will be the development of housing partnerships with local government, third sector housing providers, and hapu and iwi.

I am encouraged that iwi like your own project partner Ngai Tai, have formed a partnership along with the Labour Alliance government to build 20 houses in Torere (Bay of Plenty).

Ngati Whatua o Orakei also has a housing portfolio that it leases back to Housing New Zealand Corporation. Again we are committed to ensuring that community based housing partnerships become an integral part of this coalition government's housing policy response.

While there are issues of capacity building we need first to recognise that hapu, iwi and communities do have strengths and abilities that we at times may not appreciate. There are however, some very real barriers to the creation of effective and respectful partnerships.

„h It is a reality that for impoverished communities access to sufficient resources needs to be created. Financial support is of course one of those resources.

„h I referred earlier to capacity building, whanau, hapu, iwi and communities still have to meet the challenge to develop organisational capacity and management skills required, to manage their housing portfolios. While I believe that many whanau and hapu do possess management skills (think how they manage and budget for large hui including tangihanga) There are some specific skills of an entirely commercial nature, the possession of which would be beneficial to them.

„h For our part as a Labour Alliance government we need to ensure that we have the capacity and ability to respond to the new idea of formal, long-term housing partnerships. Government agencies and departments need to examine how they will meet this new challenge. I am confident they will, if only because they have to.

In conclusion

This coalition government has taken the first steps towards the creation of a fair, just and equitable housing environment. We recognise we are not able to change the world overnight. The reduction in public housing stock numbers will take time to turn around.

Addressing the wider issue of reducing inequalities by creating a political, social and economic environment, where every family and whanau gain the ability to exercise choice is a challenge.

A challenge I hope, where you will join us. It is a challenge none of us should back away from.

Na reira tena tatou katoa.

© Scoop Media

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