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Labour's pledge to help Nelson's 'housing hotspot'

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 06/08/2014
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ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
HOUSING HOTSPOT: Labour’s housing spokesperson, Phil Twyford, left, Housing Trust director Keith Preston and Labour MP Maryan Street discuss housing in Nelson.

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Labour has pledged to double the number of state and social housing if elected to Government and says Nelson will benefit from its affordable housing policies.

Labour's housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, was in Nelson yesterday where he met the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust.

During a visit to the trust's homes in the Brook he said it was an "absolutely fantastic" scheme and one Labour would want to grow if elected.

"We are committed to growing the community housing sector and working with groups like the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust, to help them grow through capital grants and making available to them income-related rent subsidies, like Housing New Zealand gets and through stock transfers."

He said there were a host of issues with housing in Nelson.

"Nelson is a housing unaffordability hotspot," he said. "The Government is asleep at the wheel. We need a bolder approach. Opening a few houses here and there, it's nice for those people but what we need are bold solutions that will affect the whole market."

Twyford said the Government's work had not come close to dealing with the "scale of market failure" in New Zealand. He said there should be a focus on insulation and heating, and if elected, Labour would bring in policy to set minium standards on home rentals.

"It would be illegal for landlords to rent out a house that is not insulated or has a fixed heating source."

He said Nelson would benefit from Labour's plan to build 100,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years.

He accused the Government of "tweaking the planning rules in the hopes the housing market would fix itself."

Twyford said there were also issues with the Government winding down Housing New Zealand and "carving it up". In May Labour said the Government planned to take 186 Housing New Zealand houses out of New Zealand, which Twyford said would "really undermine affordable housing for people at the lower end of the market".

He said he wanted to double the numbers of households in state or social housing in New Zealand.

He said eligibility to get into state housing was currently too tight. "That's why you have dozens of empty, boarded-up Housing New Zealand houses in Nelson and huge need.

"People are really struggling financially in sub-standard conditions in the private rental market. It's crazy to have vacant Housing New Zealand homes lying around."

Housing Minister Nick Smith said it was "good there is a strong consensus of support" for the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust and other new social housing providers. He said National was proud of its record, and said it had quadrupled the social housing sector while in Government.

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"We have a plan to grow that to 12,000 homes - there are currently 900 - by 2017 through a mix of transfers and the social housing funds."

Smith said he rejected Labour's claims that the Government was neglecting state housing. He said National had committed $1 billion to state housing over three years.

He added the Government had focused on ensuring "better quality" state houses, with insulation in 43,000 state homes. He said he was proud of the record around housing but "openly acknowledge there is more to do".

- The Nelson Mail

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