Thousands of state homes vacant

By Brendan Manning

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Three vacant Tauranga state homes are being assessed for wheelchair access modification or whether they need to be torn down following drug manufacturing and heavy drug use by tenants.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show there were 77 vacant Housing NZ properties in Tauranga/Rotorua as of August 31 - and 84 high-priority individuals and families on waiting lists.

Three "other" properties included homes that were undergoing modification for residents with disabilities, or had been involved with drug use/manufacture and are now undergoing assessment as to whether to tear the properties down or re-let them.

More than 3000 HNZ properties were vacant nationwide as of August 31 with 2430 high priority waiting lists applicants. Critics say it is disgraceful the nation has thousands of vacant state houses while people are forced to live in cars, overcrowded houses and on the streets.

Tauranga Community Housing Trust chairwoman Chris Johnstone said there was a shortage of local HNZ properties, which the corporation was well aware of.

The greatest shortage was for one-bedroom and two-bedroom homes, she said.

"We support the Government's move to build the community housing sector, but until the community housing sector can get up to a reasonable level, we've still got people who can't afford the private rental market and don't own their own homes so aren't being housed appropriately.

"We just need a range of suitable options to meet a range of demographic, household and income needs."

HNZ acting government relations manager Sharon Girvan said "like any landlord", the corporation aimed to keep the number of unoccupied properties to a minimum and had a lower long-term vacancy rate than the private sector.

Just 1.99 per cent of lettable HNZ properties were vacant, but the corporation's total vacancy rate rose to 4.4 per cent when fire-damaged properties, properties earmarked for sale and those undergoing renovations were included.

HNZ properties were generally vacant due to repair work, upcoming sale or redevelopment, or lack of suitability for those on waiting the list, she said. The corporation was reconfiguring its portfolio to better match the size and location of its houses to meet families' requirements, Ms Girvan said.

"This involves selling surplus properties in low demand areas and properties that are poorly configured for demand, and acquiring additional fit-for-purpose properties in priority demand areas."

Last week, about 100 housing protesters from as far away as Auckland and Napier marched on Parliament.

They said a public housing crisis was being deepened by the closure of HNZ properties in Glen Innes in Auckland, Pomare in Lower Hutt and Maraenui in Napier.

HNZ asset development general manager Sean Bignell said simply adding more properties to areas that were already dense with state housing did nothing to improve social outcomes for communities.


By the numbers


Tauranga/Rotorua

Two properties vacant due to fire damage.

39 vacant, lettable properties.

Three vacant, "other" properties.

31 vacant properties pending sale

One vacant property with planned major repairs/upgrades.

One vacant property under redevelopment.

77 total vacant properties in Tauranga/Rotorua.

84 registered priority A and B applicants on HNZ's local waiting list.

Hawkes Bay

152 vacant, lettable properties.

Nationwide

3045 HNZ properties vacant nationally.

4.4 per cent of total HNZ stock vacant.

2430 priority A and B applicants on HNZ waiting list.- (as of August 31)

Note: Some properties categorised as "lettable" have been matched to waiting list applicants but tenancies are yet to commence.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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