Bill English confirms State houses could be sold to overseas buyers
The Government is not ruling out selling a stake in the country's state housing portfolio to Australian interests.
Finance Minister Bill English said it was possible state houses could be sold to an Australian charity as the government looks to divest some of its housing stock to third parties.
Speaking on TV3s The Nation, English said Australians would be able to buy the State houses if they were registered as community housing providers.
A Gold Coast non profit charity, Horizon Housing, has expressed an interest after visiting New Zealand. It reportedly wants to buy 400 plus houses.
The Government has announced plans to sell a limited number of State houses to community housing providers to take on vulnerable tenants.
But it has struggled to find big providers in New Zealand to implement the policy and the scheme was dealt a blow when one of the biggest potential investors, the Salvation Army, walked away from the negotiating table. It said it lacked the expertise, infrastructure and resources to deal with the number of houses and tenants that the Government wanted to off load.
Salvation Army social housing spokesman Major Campbell Roberts said the Government had underestimated the complexity of the task.
News of the interest from across the Tasman has been attacked by Opposition parties. NZ First leader Winston Peters said the Government should not be putting vulnerable tenants under the control of overseas landlords.
"[The Government] has already downsized the number of houses, and now it proposes to put state housing ownership in the hands of an Australian organisation (Horizon Housing), or lease to them or private interests," Peters said.
"The government never mentioned that it was willing to sacrifice our assets to foreign buyers. The effect of Australian ownership is that the New Zealand taxpayer will be subsidising the tenancies with money normally going to the state now going to Australia or private interests. "
Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the Government was effectively privatising State housing.
"Bill English has yet to provide a scrap of evidence that Australian companies in cahoots with property developers will do a better job of delivering state housing.