'Misleading' state housing figures

Last updated 18:51 02/08/2013

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Only about a 10th of the state houses cited by Labour leader David Shearer as being vacant could be immediately occupied, Housing New Zealand chief executive Glen Sowry says.

Mr Shearer said 3700 state houses were vacant, with the number rising from 2633 in January last year to 3703 in May this year.

It was a sign the Government was mismanaging its housing stock, leaving ‘‘vulnerable New Zealanders literally out of house and home’’.

Mr Sowry said only a very small number of houses on the department’s 69,000 portfolio was vacant.

‘‘Of our vacant properties, only 390 are ready for people to move into – a number of these already under offer to people on our waiting list,’’ he said yesterday.

About 1200 vacant properties needed minor repairs before they would be re-tenanted, he said.

‘‘We want our homes to be up to standard before we house people in them.

‘‘A significant proportion of vacant properties are also due to the Canterbury earthquakes. We are in the process of repairing 5000 homes in Christchurch, and building 700 new ones.’’

Some of Christchurch buildings were unsafe and tenants were relocated, as were those in multi story buildings in Wellington.

There were 2801 people on the waiting list with an urgent or immediate need of housing, most in high demand areas such as Auckland and Christchurch.

Mr Shearer had said houses that were ready to rent made up almost half of National’s vacant houses.

‘‘That’s a fail grade for Housing Minister Nick Smith and further evidence of systemic failure in National’s management of Housing New Zealand.’’

Dr Smith told Fairfax Media that Mr Shearer’s figures were ‘‘very misleading’’.

About 1000 properties were vacant due to earthquake damage, or for related strengthening, he said.

Mr Shearer had also included properties that were vacant, but had actually had tenants allocated to them and who were ready to move in.

Vacant homes made up about  half a per cent of the total stock, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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