Provinces left out in the cold

MATTHEW DALLAS DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 15/05/2014

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As the Government struggles to accommodate Auckland's growing population, shouldn't it be advocating the benefits of living in the provinces rather than eroding them?

The National Government's housing policies are increasingly concerning as they continue to stymie the efforts of both young home buyers to find their feet and the desperate to get off their knees - all to feed the insatiable beast above the Bombay Hills.

This week we reported that a a third of the wider Manawatu region's state housing stock, just under a 2000 properties, could be sold by Housing New Zealand if it acts on projections that demand for the homes is diminishing. At the same time, over 2800 more state houses are needed in Auckland, suggesting local sell-offs would help finance development further north.

Housing New Zealand chief executive Glen Sowry said the configuration of its properties was outdated and schemes such as the First Home initiative - the sell-off of surplus houses with mortgage incentives - were helping correct this.

Labour housing spokesperson Phil Twyford calls it "asset stripping", undermining the housing affordability and economies of provinces such as ours, while Manawatu Tenants Union spokesperson Kevin Reilly has rejected the projection that local need for state housing is waning. He says there are still a lot of people struggling and they cannot afford private rental rates.

It is certainly difficult to reconcile such forecasts, that indicate demand for state housing dropping by 30 to 65 per cent, with other recent data, such as the advisory group report to the Children's Commission that estimates up to 25 per cent of Kiwi kids are living in poverty.

The old state homes may well be snapped up by first home buyers, but only because they are bereft of alternatives due to the current loan-to-value ratios - imposed by the Reserve Bank to slow down the urban property markets.

Such schemes are more a consolation for being collateral damage in the provinces than an incentive to move out of the big smoke.

Finance Minister Bill English looked like the cat who got the cream in pre-Budget photos, clearly smitten with its small surplus and the promise of more to come. But with no signs of relief for first home buyers or welfare tenants, there'll be many who feel like they're out in the dog house with little chance of finding a way inside. Each year Graduation Week signifies a final chapter to thousands of stories of dedication, inspiration and achievement. We are able to share just a few of them. Congratulations to everyone donning the black this week.

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ONE MORE THING: Each year Graduation Week signifies a final chapter to thousands of stories of dedication, inspiration and achievement. We are able to share just a few of them. Congratulations to everyone donning the black this week.

- Manawatu Standard

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