State houses damaged to tune of more than $15m

Fires, P-labs and copper thieves - messy and destructive state housing tenants cost more than $15 million last year.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show the cost of repairing damaged Housing New Zealand properties has nearly doubled in the past three years.

Roughly one in three of Housing NZ's 67,000 homes were damaged last year, costing, on average, $632 each to repair.

Residential property managers in Auckland and Wellington say this is far higher than in the private market.

Simon Allen, of Allen Reality in Auckland, said even in areas with high levels of poverty and crime, it was rare for houses to sustain more than $500 damage.

"It's mostly just wear and tear. Cleaning up or rubbish removal."

The disparity was probably because Housing NZ tenants included people who had been knocked back by the private market. "It's not comparing apples with apples. We decline tenants every day to avoid holes in walls."

Nearly 25,000 state houses suffered some sort of damage last year, with the most common incidents including broken windows, carpet stains and holes in the wall.

But many homes were trashed, with one in Morningside, Auckland, costing $35,117 to repair.

In the Wellington region, 10 homes sustained more than $10,000 of damage. One, in Porirua, cost $22,445 to fix.

Housing New Zealand has refused to provide details of the more severely damage homes.

But records show that at least six state homes were set alight last year.

One, in Red Hill, near Papakura, south of Auckland, had to be bulldozed after a fire caused by a suspected P-lab explosion.

Housing NZ communications manager Joy Gribben said much of the damage was unintentional and often someone other than the tenants was responsible.

The Dominion Post