9 Sep 2015

English defends $118m Housing NZ dividend

11:54 am on 9 September 2015

The $118 million dividend Housing New Zealand is paying to the government is only a small amount of its income, the minister responsible for the agency says.

Bill English talking on Solid Energy.

Bill English: Housing New Zealand "has the cash to act" on urgent repairs. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

There has been criticism of the expected payout, which is the largest in five years, with some asking why the money is not being spent on fixing up cold, mouldy homes.

Jo Iosefo lives in Otara in south Auckland, near the state house where two-year-old Emma Lita-Bourne died last year partly from what a coroner called damp, mouldy conditions.

He said he had seen some of the houses people were living in and doubted he could live in those conditions.

"As you know, kids [are] dying over here living in those houses."

Mr Iosefo said it should not take tragedies for Housing New Zealand to move families out of their damp properties.

The Housing NZ property in Otara.

Emma-Lita Bourne lived in this Housing New Zealand property in Otara. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

But the responsible minister, Bill English, said Housing New Zealand had spent $400 million maintaining and upgrading houses in the past financial year.

"If any tenant lets Housing New Zealand know about any what they call urgent maintenance needs, and they've got 125,000 of those notifications in the last year or two, then Housing New Zealand has the cash to act on those."

Mr English said the constraint on getting people into homes in Auckland was not about having the money to buy more, it was about the shortage of new properties on the market.

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