21 Nov 2013

Minister makes no commitment to new housing funding

1:16 pm on 21 November 2013

Housing Minister Nick Smith is making no promises about increasing funding for the community housing sector.

Parliament on Wednesday passed a law giving private social housing providers the same rent subsidy as Housing New Zealand.

Housing Minister Nick Smith says he aims to have the groups providing 20% of social housing over the next five years.

Providers including the Community Housing Aotearoa question how that target can be met when the sector only gets 3% of the overall funding.

The Budget set aside $27 million so rent subsidies can be extended to private social housing providers over the next four years.

Dr Smith says while he's aware of calls in the sector for extra funding, each budget is a challenge and there are no guarantees more money will be available.

"I'm not in a position where I can make commitments for Budget 2014 but I am cognisant of the concerns in the sector that the Government's ambitions to be able to fund those is going to require an increased commitment."

He says there are big advantages to having private providers offer social housing including their ability to better meet the needs of groups such as the disabled.

Salvation Army policy analyst Alan Johnson says the rent subsidies are not enough to deliver more homes and are a pittance compared to what Housing New Zealand gets.

"The scale of the subsidy offered to Housing New Zealand is about a hundred times more than the budgets that are presently being offered to the NGO (non-governmental organisation) sector. It's just not credible to believe that that sector is going to provide twenty percent of the housing with such a minor budget."

The legislation also spells the end of the notion of a state house for life by making all Housing New Zealand tenancies subject to review.