Hundreds march to protest sale of state housing in Christchurch
Protesters took to the streets of Christchurch on Saturday to voice their concern about the Government's plan to transfer thousands of Christchurch state houses away from public ownership.
A 150-strong crowd gathered in the Shand Crescent Reserve, in Riccarton, to hear speakers pronounce their outrage at National's plan to sell 2500 state houses to community housing providers.
But Minister for Social Housing Amy Adams says the transfer will increase the number of social houses in the region, and provide added benefits for tenants.
Protest organiser John Minto said the immediate impact on families in state houses was minimal, but the long-term effects of such a plan were "horrendous for the people of Christchurch".
* Govt chooses preferred buyer for sale of 1100 Tauranga state houses
* Sole buyer of Invercargill state houses pulls out
* Community housing provider picketed over sell-off
* Next stage of state house sell-off underway
* Govt offloads 2800 state houses
* Invercargill and Tauranga chosen for first state house sales
"This is a government plan to walk away from state housing, and only the government has got the resources and the capacity to build the number of houses that are desperately needed in Christchurch," Minto said.
"The government needs to pull back and say, it is a core government responsibility to provide houses for families on low incomes."
In 2015, Tauranga and Invercargill were chosen as the first regions to have state houses sold as part of an "innovate new approach to social housing".
Accessible Properties, a community housing provider owned by intellectual disability organisation IHC, was confirmed in August 2016 as the purchaser of 1124 properties in Tauranga.
On Saturday, Minto was joined by various speakers on the back of a white ute including Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews, Labour MP for Wigram Megan Woods, Green Party MP Eugenie Sage and state housing tenant Naenae Higgs.
For a long time, Higgs said she feared speaking out against the "broken" social housing system, but was encouraged by the impending sale of state housing.
"It's important that people stand here today and make some noise because we need to let the government know that we can't sell off these state houses.
Higgs said tenants risked becoming "chattels" of sold state houses, and it was time the government "look after the people".
"I don't believe [they] can do that if these houses are sold off to another company."
Minister Adams said the transfer of social housing to registered community housing providers would bring about benefits for tenants and taxpayers.
As was shown in the Tauranga transfer, the ratio of property managers to tenants was lower, and services provided to social housing tenants improved, Adams said.
"We've [also] committed to the fact that any funds received [from the housing transfer] are held within Housing New Zealand to continue to grow the HNZ stock across the country."
She said while any bidders for the Christchurch social housing stock must be a New Zealand registered community housing provider, no "hard and fast rules" were being made about "overseas capital tied up in those companies".
As part of the transfer deal, the eventual winning bidder would have to build a further 150 social houses in Christchurch, and the 2500 houses bought would remain as social housing and could not be sold unless the Government agreed otherwise, Adams said.
She believed the protests came from an "ideological opposition to the state not being the sole owner" of social housing.
"Our view is that if other community housing providers show us they can do a better job than Housing NZ, then why wouldn't we look at that.
"I think they are also playing on a misunderstanding that somehow this is a reduction in the social housing stock in Christchurch, whereas in fact the absolute opposite is the case."