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2010/2011 Estimates for Vote Housing

2010/2011 Estimates for Vote Housing
Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party Wednesday 28 July 2010; 7.37pm

Tena tatou katoa.

One of the good things about not being in the mainstream parties is that we listen to these debates that go on and we actually recall the previous Government and this Government. I would have to say that the performance of the previous government in housing was not very hot.

Today at question time there was a debate about the unacceptably high levels of rheumatic fever in Maori, Pasifika and high deprivation communities.

Approximately 146 people die per year from complications of this condition, the majority of them are Maori or Pacific.

But although the ongoing cost of treatment is estimated to be costing the health sector approximately ten million dollars per year, the reality is that this is a condition of poverty – and it is also a condition of very poor housing. It will take a lot more than just the health sector to get it right.

Rheumatic fever is associated with poor living conditions, socio-economic deprivation and overcrowded housing conditions.

The case of Porirua woman To'a Finau in my electorate was a classic example of the link between health and housing.

The extreme dampness in her state house bedrooms forced the family of four to sleep in cramped conditions in one room – her son who was only 15 months old; her daughter who was 14 years with chronic asthmas and of course, she herself, with a chronic heart condition.

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Insulation was supposed to be installed in September 2009 but nine months later, in June of this year, it had still not happened. However I understand that just in recent weeks she has been moved.

And so it was useful to see upfront in Vote Housing, the recognition from the Minister that many of the existing houses are not insulated and need to be modernised or reconfigured. I believe that this Minister will do a great job.

And I congratulate Minister Heatley for his assurances to the select committee that another 8000 upgrades are planned and the only concern that I would have is that it is hard to understand quite where the resourcing will come for that, when the $124 million stimulus appropriation granted in 2009/10 has come to an end.

Of course, the condition of existing state houses is not the only issue of concern and our concern is also the priority accorded to the State house waiting list.

There are some huge issues for us in terms of the numbers of whanau in severe and persistent housing needs. These whanau are seriously at risk because of their housing circumstances with houses that are unsuitable, inadequate or unsustainable.

We know that 67% of all Maori are renting or boarding – with approximately 72,000 Maori occupants residing in state housing.

More than 55.7% of Maori living in state housing are under the age of twenty. We also know that Maori are particularly prevalent amongst the homeless.

And we are inevitably concerned when we learn of the intention to reduce the waiting list significantly, by being able to free up spaces on the waiting list for people with real need.

The question we must ask is how is real need defined – is it people located in overcrowding and inappropriate housing; young and vulnerable New Zealanders, those who are homeless?

But we also have some concerns about what will happen in the decision to encourage applicants who no longer meet the category of housing need, to apply in the open market in private rental accommodation.

It can not be overlooked that racial discrimination affects access to housing. A couple of years ago the reality of racism in the housing market became known through exposure in the media of a South Waikato landlord and a Tauranga property owner, who declared that banning Maori tenants made good business sense, and should be allowed.

Such comments only scrape the surface of the levels of institutional racism which other researchers have identified.

In this context, a suggestion that we would like to put forward to Housing New Zealand is that they could play a role in mentoring potential tenants, or providing them with letters of reference, to support Maori, Pasifika and ethnic minority tenants to enter the rental market on a strong footing.

Finally we note the minor but significant paragraph placed at the end of the report, which outlines some of the great initiatives that the Maori Party has been pleased to work with the Minister of Housing on, such as the Housing Innovation Fund and the extension to the Welcome Home Loan Scheme.


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