Key set to air plan on state houses

Prime Minister John Key is poised to outline the possible sale of thousands of state houses to community groups today, as the Government advances its reform of social housing.

In his first major speech of the year, Key is expected outline Government plans to expand the number of houses which will offer subsidised rents to the vulnerable.

Since the election, the Government has hinted it will recycle capital from selling state houses, possibly at below market rate, to social providers such as the Salvation Army, Presbyterian Support and iwi groups.

Reports on Housing New Zealand's stock of about 68,000 state houses concluded that around a third - worth a combined $5 billion - are either the wrong size or in the wrong location.

Key yesterday confirmed houses would likely be sold, but that the number of Kiwis living in households with income-related rents would increase.

"The overall focus here is to accommodate more New Zealanders into social housing. We know there's a need, we know that at the moment the primary provider has been Housing New Zealand. We want to provide more houses . . . without the Government providing more and more of its balance sheet," Key said.

National has moved responsibility for assessing whether tenants are eligible for income-related rents to the Ministry of Social Development, expanded the subsidies into housing provided by approved charities, and introduced reviewable tenancies to allow tenants to be evicted when circumstances change.

Key said further moves were needed, noting that about 30 per cent of the demand for state houses was for single bedroom accommodation, but only 9 per cent of the stock matched this demand.

Labour leader Andrew Little said National's plans amounted to an asset sale, with the Government abdicating its responsibility to provide Kiwis with good accommodation.

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 - The Dominion Post

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