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Social housing showdown

Mike Butterick, left, Kieran McAnulty, and Ron Mark. IMAGE/WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

Wairarapa political heavyweights draw battlelines


Off the back of the sale of Newland Pl, Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty says housing is a basic human right and leaving it to the market is why Wairarapa is facing a crisis.

Previous owners Wairarapa Building Society said they were not a provider of social housing but a facilitator and were unable to provide the assistance they said the tenants deserved.

“We’ve got a number of projects where we are talking to people who are looking at opportunities to bring social housing to the community,” WBS chief executive Paul Bywater said.

“As a community-based membership organisation, we’re as passionate as anybody about seeing the right social outcome – but as a financial organisation, we would much rather see our balance sheet put to work and do what we do, which is help provide finance for those opportunities.”

Bywater said WBS hadn’t just gone out there and marketed the Newland Pl properties to make capital gain.

“We’ve marketed them very strongly on the basis of social and community capital outcomes. Value is an important part of it, our members don’t want to see them given away below value, but equally our directors, and management team are very focused on being reasonable about getting high quality outcomes for our community.”

Bywater said WBS would be available to help fund social housing projects where bigger banks would not.

“It’s a really big part of trying to develop the Wairarapa region. Whether it’s financing social housing, residential housing, commercial property or property development, they all contribute to the wider economy and the growth of the region. That’s what we’re here for.”

Bywater said they had seven purchase agreements that they were progressing with potential buyers.

Bywater said in selling the lots, two or three of them were on a conditional contract.

“We’re really pleased with the outcomes. We’re working with a great mix of first home and other buyers who have been priced out of the market up to now.”

Bywater said they were confident that they would “achieve quality outcomes for our existing tenants and community”.

Although some of the Newland Pl residents may have been allowed to stay in their homes, this didn’t scratch the surface of the larger issue at play – the absolute lack of alternative housing.

McAnulty said the Labour Party had opposed the previous National government’s selling off of state houses, and heavily criticised their refusal to acknowledge there was a housing crisis.

“That is why we built 6000 state houses last term and have committed to 8000 more. If the previous Government built houses at this rate there wouldn’t be a shortage,” McAnulty said.

“We know we have a lot of ground to make up, especially here in Wairarapa. That is why it is my main priority.”

McAnulty said he conceded that Kiwibuild had not worked as hoped – which is why it had been redesigned.

“We have not given up our goal of building affordable homes alongside our state house building programme.”

Trust House chief executive Charles Kaka said efficient ways of solving the housing crisis in Wairarapa needed to be found.

“Government at the moment seem to have deep pockets and seem determined to sort out the housing crisis,” Kaka said.

“Nationally, they have some focus areas that demand more action than here.”

McAnulty said he was aware that more announcements to assist people into owning their own home would be announced later this year.

On the other side of the debate, Wairarapa’s National candidate Mike Butterick has called for politicians to stop laying the blame on one another and start fixing the issue.

However, he said there had not been much action in the past three years under the Labour government.

Former NZ First list MP Ron Mark said Trust House had not been held accountable for its mismanagement of social housing.

He said that Trust House needed to take ownership of the social housing issue.

“The organisation was given a sweetheart deal and purchased more than 500 houses for about $19,000 each in 1999, and promised to be the electorate’s social housing provider, and they have consistently failed to do that.”

Mark questioned the view of former Trust House chief executive Allan Pollard that Trust House would benefit from crown capital funding.

“If I was the government, I would repossess the houses and start again,” Mark said.

Mark said that while Wairarapa was in a housing boom, Trust House seemed unable to leverage against their capital gains and use their equity to fulfil their social housing promises.

He said that social housing was the biggest challenge in Wairarapa facing the government.

“As an MP, it saddened me to be dealing with the types of cases where people simply can’t get houses.”

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