Policy stymies would-be homeowner

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 13:04 06/12/2013

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A Blenheim solo father is angry at being turned down for Housing NZ's FirstHome scheme because he earned too much.

William Tuhura applied to buy a Housing NZ house in Mayfield, Blenheim on Monday last week. Senior housing analyst Iain Duncan replied by email the same day saying he did not qualify after earning over the $53,000 cutoff in the last 12 months.

Mr Tuhura said this was unfair because his income was under $52,000.

Six months ago he moved from Christchurch where he worked long hours repairing quake-damaged sewers to Blenheim to raise his son closer to family. This meant a drop in income from about $68,000.

Housing NZ should judge his application on his circumstances today, Mr Tuhura said.

At $232,000 the house was no bargain, he said. It was in rough condition with no garage or shed. The day the Express visited, rainwater was running from an open downpipe and under the floor.

As a drainlayer and practical man, he had the skills to make this a comfortable home to raise his 12-year-old son, Mr Tuhura said.

He was keen to buy through HomeFirst which gave buyers 10 per cent of the property's market value, up to $20,000.

Mr Tuhura understood that while Housing NZ was advertising five Blenheim and Picton houses, about 20 empty houses were being trickled on to the market.

"But my heart is set on Girling Rd."

He tried to rent the house for six months then buy but this option closed when it became part of the FirstHome portfolio.

Mr Tuhura said he visited Kaikoura MP Colin King's office to ask for help and was told they wanted more documentation. He also contacted Housing Minister Nick Smith's Wellington office but had not heard back.

Housing NZ asset development general manager Sean Bignell said staff explained FirstHome criteria to Mr Tehura and were happy to do so again.

He was welcome to reapply if his circumstances changed.

"We need the application process to be transparent and equitable," Mr Bignell said.

This meant applying the same criteria to all applicants.

Commenting further would breach confidentiality, he said.

HOMES FOR SALE 

Housing NZ has listed seven Marlborough homes and sold two since launching its FirstHome programme two months ago.

Asset development general manager Sean Bignell said the scheme was aimed at helping modest income earners buy a house.

Of the six houses listed in Blenheim, one had sold, he said.

The sole Picton listing had also sold.

Sixty-two applications had been received for FirstHome houses since Wednesday last week, including six from Blenheim and Picton. Four of the 62 were declined around New Zealand because they did not meet eligibility criteria including applicants earning more than $53,000 over the last 12 months.

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The FirstHome initiative would sell up to 400 houses over three years, he said.

"There are no plans to sell all vacant [houses] in Blenheim as FirstHome properties."

Chris Greenhill, of Harcourt's Blenheim, which is marketing three FirstHome houses, said she had expected more interest. Prices were reasonable, plus Housing NZ was gifting 10 per cent, up to $20,000. "I thought they would just fly," she said.

Kaikoura MP Colin King and housing minister Nick Smith launched the FirstHome programme in Blenheim on October 2.

 

- The Marlborough Express

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