What are the current challenges the Government is facing with housing?
I have to say the housing portfolio was left to this Government with significant problems. I am advised that over 20,000 State houses are of the wrong size, in the wrong place, or in a state of significant disrepair. Additionally, over 8 years, despite the State housing stock growing by thousands, the waiting list has stayed consistently at about 10,000 families. It is clearly time to take a fresh look at that.
A lot more than the previous Government. For starters, we are helping to address the need. In the next financial year the Housing New Zealand Corporation will upgrade another 8,000 State houses and acquire roughly another 280. We are also committed to the policy of income-related rents. But this Government is open to doing things better, and we actually want to have the right houses, of the right standard, in the right places for those who are most in need.
What advice has the Minister sought on ways to address these issues in the longer term?
In February the Minister of Finance and I established the Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group, to provide advice on the current state of social housing in New Zealand and report back with recommendations for improvements, so that we can better meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society and on the waiting list. This group, made up of experts in social housing and property investment, will be releasing its report tomorrow. We now want the broadest group possible from the housing sector to comment on it, and to consider the challenge. I take this opportunity to thank the group for the work that it has done. I look forward to the release tomorrow of the report, and to the consequential public discussion that will undoubtedly follow.