John Key defends housing sell-off

Thursday 29 Jan 2015 6:08 p.m.

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The Prime Minister's been forced to defend his social housing reforms, giving an assurance state houses will not be flogged off to line the pockets of developers.

Community providers thinking of buying into the scheme have raised concerns too, questioning whether there's enough support from the Government or if the reforms will help at all.

"I don't think we need to rush in these things. I think it'll be a good concept, it'll work well, but we'll just take it cautiously," says John Key.

Labour leader Andrew Little says yesterday's housing announcement isn't the end of the reforms.

"This is the start of the process of the Government getting out of state housing."

Up to 2000 houses will be sold in the first year at discount to community housing providers, and the rent subsidy currently paid to the state will instead go to those community providers.

When asked if there was any way the homes could be bought at a discount and sold on again at a cheap price, Mr Key said no.

"They would have to come to the Government and the Government would have to give permission."

In the 1990s a state housing cull under National was marked by protest, and profits were made from some sales. More than 7000 houses were sold back then, and this time up to 8000 could go.

Mr Little says community housing groups are "free to sell properties if they decide they no longer need it, can't use it or can't manage it".

However Mr Key disagrees.

"In principle that can't happen because we wouldn't allow it to happen."

Community providers buy or lease properties to help those who need help into homes. The idea is the providers can offer more support than the state.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says community organisations will want to be involved but simply won't be able to afford to buy those houses.

Some community providers agree, sceptical of the costs and the outcome.

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust executive David Zussman says he doesn't think the reforms will address their desire for an overall increase in housing.

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