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NZ State home sell-off riles locals

Property Here - Thursday, May 23, 2013

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Tauranga residents unhappy with the sale of state houses in their area jumped at the opportunity to raise the issue with Labour leader David Shearer.

Mr Shearer visited Merivale School yesterday and held a community meeting to discuss housing in the area.

Housing New Zealand confirmed nine Merivale houses were sold to private buyers in the last 12 months.

Merivale resident Marian Adams and mother of six said she knew plenty of people desperate for a house.

"[Housing NZ's] waiting list is long. They have a long waiting list and we just noticed all the homes getting sold."

The homes were often bought and rented out again but at much higher prices, she said. "It makes it a lot harder for the people who are in need of homes."

Merivale Community Centre chief executive Graham Cameron said he understood Housing NZ's need to diversify their housing and get away from the standard three-bedroom home but need in the area was greater than the houses available.

"Against their criteria they couldn't fill [all the three-bedroom homes]. There were empty homes but we know people who want homes. They say it's not the right home for that family but we're saying it's better than crashing in a garage or someone's lounge and having an overcrowded house," he said.

Mr Cameron believed most of the houses had been sold to one buyer.

"That's not good for the community. What's good for the community is when people buy the houses and move in."

If state houses were to be sold off other options needed to be provided, Mr Cameron said.

Housing NZ regional manager Darren Toy said staff met with the Merivale Community Centre last year and agreed to look at selling some of the properties to address concerns about the high concentration of state houses in the area.

Mr Cameron said the idea was laughable. "I can assure you we did not formally or informally request they start selling houses in our neighbourhood."

Mr Cameron and community members met with Mr Shearer and Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford to discuss affordable housing when they visited Tauranga yesterday.

Mr Twyford said Housing NZ did need to upgrade and diversify its homes but it could be done better.

"There's a number of places where they have booted people out of houses and left those properties vacant for some time while the waiting list grows."

The Government was stopping Housing NZ from increasing the housing stock at a time when the country had the worst shortage in living memory, he said.

Mr Shearer promised Tauranga would be targeted in Labour's KiwiBuild policy which would see 10,000 affordable houses built every year for 10 years to help first-home buyers into houses.

That would also push house prices down allowing more social houses to be purchased, he said.