Housing Minister Megan Woods on the 'very simple' reason the Government still sells off state homes

National is often criticised for selling off state homes when it was in power, but Housing Minister Megan Woods says it is still necessary if houses are in the wrong place and don't meet demand. 

Since Labour came to power in late 2017, Government agency Kāinga Ora has sold off 191 state houses worth more than $63 million. That compares to 1300 state houses sold between 2014 and 2017 when National was in power.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has often talked about how her Government "inherited" a housing crisis from National, "decades in the making" after the sell-off of state homes. 

"The previous Government left us with a chronic shortage of houses and were selling off state houses that people desperately needed," Ardern said in February last year.  

Dr Woods has made similar remarks about the housing crisis: "It follows decades of insufficient new housing stock being built and the selling of thousands of state homes by the previous National Government."

National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis asked Dr Woods in Parliament to explain how she could stand by the Government's commitment to stop selling off state homes if it sold $63 million worth since it came to power. 

"Very simply," Dr Woods said. "There are circumstances where it may be the wrong house in the wrong place. Where it does not match demand in that area, it is surplus to requirement."

Dr Woods said the Government "made a commitment" to stop the "mass sale" of state houses, and despite having sold $63 million worth, it doesn't compare to the $204 million worth sold off by National between 2014 and 2017.

"In 2018-2019, 54 were sold, and in 2019-2020, 64 were sold. I would compare this to 2014-2015, when 577 were sold," Dr Woods said. "Let us always remember: that member is a member of a party that finished Government with fewer public houses than it started with."

The Government announced earlier this week it had delivered 1000 more transitional housing places, bringing the total number to 3972, compared with 2113 in November 2017. It promises to deliver more than 18,000 public and transitional housing places by 2024. 

But there are currently 22,409 people on the public housing waiting list, making the additional 1000 spots a "drop in the bucket" according to Willis, and only 40 percent of the places are newly built houses.  

"Kāinga Ora has been spending up large purchasing existing homes and re-labelling them as state houses," says Willis. "Changing the label on whether a house is state-owned or not does nothing except change who misses out."

Dr Woods argues that purchasing existing housing stock for public homes is happening less. She said in the 2017-2018 year, 24 percent were "buy-ins", compared to 41 percent in 2016-2017. 

"We have been steadily tracking down, and we have made our expectations very clear to Kāinga Ora that, actually, we're sitting around a quarter now, that are buy-ins, and we've made our expectations even clearer that we want that to decrease even further."

Dr Woods pointed out that in the 2010-2011 year, 67 percent of all new acquisitions were buy-ins, under the previous National Government. 

"This is not something that we would be willing to tolerate."

She said she has also given "very clear" expectations to non-profit community housing providers - which receive Government funding - to add more to the housing stock. 

"In the last two years, 77 percent of all their new acquisitions have been buy-ins, and I've made it very clear to them that the relationship has to be based on additionality. We will be adding to the housing stock, and we want to work with the community housing providers to do likewise."

The Government will be making an announcement in the coming weeks on how to both reduce speculative demand on housing and enable more supply to be built.