7 Sep 2022

Christopher Luxon denies National government's actions caused state housing supply issue

12:22 pm on 7 September 2022
National Party Leader Christopher Luxon and Deputy Leader Nicola Willis

National Party leader Christopher Luxon and deputy Nicola Willis. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says it is a "load of rubbish" that the government has not been able to meet state housing demand because the party had sold off too many when they were in power.

It comes as Rotorua's emergency housing is under the spotlight once again, with Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi calling for an inquiry after an investigation by TVNZ's Golden Mile programme raised serious concerns about the sub-standard quality of motel accommodation in the area.

Responding to questions about the issue, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Rotorua's population had been growing but at the same time there were fewer public houses until the Labour Party came into power in 2017.

National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis has previously admitted there was a net loss in state housing because of National's actions.

In 2020, as the party's housing spokesperson at the time, Willis told Morning Report they had sold or converted a couple of thousand state houses when they were in power, which she estimated about 1000 of those went into community provision.

"Some of those houses moved into community ownership and I don't think that is the wrong policy, that continues to be the policy of this government," Willis said.

"What I would like to see is the government continuing to build more state houses" regardless of which party was in power, she said.

However, Luxon today told Morning Report the government had had enough time to deal with housing problems overall.

Asked if National's actions had caused a supply problem with state homes, he said: "That's a load of rubbish."

"Here's the deal, 6000 people were on a waitlist when we left power, now we're up over 26,000 - a four-fold increase [in the state housing waitlist].

"We've had a four-fold increase in the number of people living in cars, we've got 4000 families in emergency housing."

The housing problem was all linked whether it be home ownership, rentals, social housing or emergency housing, he said.

"This government has had five years of abject failure on every dimension of housing."

He believed more state homes needed to be built via community housing providers as well as Kāinga Ora, and that removing the brightline test and interest deductibility would help ease the housing problems.

The National Party is also asking the Auditor-General to conduct an inquiry into emergency housing in Rotorua.

In a statement, National Party housing spokesperson Chris Bishop said a significant amount of public money was paid to emergency housing providers, and the public deserved to know it was being spent appropriately.

The inquiry was needed so that confidence in the government's oversight of such housing was maintained, Bishop said.

"While it is welcome that police and DIA [Department of Internal Affairs] may be making inquiries, we believe it would be appropriate for the Auditor-General to investigate."

Building more houses

At a news conference today marking a milestone in the apprenticeship programme, Ardern claimed this government had built more houses than any other New Zealand government since the 1970s.

"But we need to build more," she said, adding that children shouldn't be growing up in emergency accommodation at motels.

Equally, it would not be good if they were homeless, she said.

"Our long-term plan is to get them into sustainable, long-term safe housing. It's why for instance we've worked so hard to now have built 10 percent of all the state houses in New Zealand.

"Motels are only intended to be a transition, the long-term goal is to have enough housing so that no New Zealander is in that form of transitional housing for more than a short time.

"This is where, every part of what we're doing, even here today, talking about apprenticeships which we have increased by over 50 percent since we came in government, is all about having the ability to build more houses."

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