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Battle goes on to save state homes

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Bill English, Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand.
Bill English, Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand.

Tauranga residents opposed to the looming sale of the city's state houses are holding out hope something may yet be done to prevent the sale.

Vanessa Kururangi, the co-ordinator of the State Housing Action Network's Tauranga branch, said the fight for the Government to retain its state houses was continuing in the face of the next stage of the sale process.

"We were very disappointed with the lack of consultation. The tenants are very vulnerable people, and need people to stand up for them. They don't like what's happening, but feel they can't fight against it.

"The feeling amongst some of the tenants I've spoken to is they've just had enough. They don't want the insecurity."

She would hold a meeting at Merivale Community Centre in the next fortnight to gather support for a national housing summit on April 16 at Western Springs Community Hall in Auckland. She hoped to be able to take a convoy to the summit for people to ask questions.

One of the three groups making a bid to purchase 1124 Tauranga state houses is a consortium of three international firms, John Laing Infrastructure Fund, Pinnacle Community Housing and Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions, under the name Hapori Connect Tauranga.

The other two groups bidding for the houses are Kainga Community Housing Partners, a consortium of local iwi and both national and international organisations, and charitable organisation Accessible Properties, fully owned by IHC.

Bill English, Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand, said the three groups had been deemed by Treasury to have "the experience and expertise to improve outcomes" for tenants.

"Overseas partners with experience running social housing at scale may bring this kind of expertise, and will help the social housing provider run their business in a commercially viable and sustainable way.

"Those who reach the final stage in the process will be expected to be, or have as part of their consortia, a NZ-registered and regulated community housing provider."

Mr English said the groups on the shortlist would have to show they had the capacity to offer good services to tenants and the final bids would weigh up service and community connections, alongside price.

Tauranga-based New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell said his party was "dead against" any asset sales, including the sale of state houses.

What the bidders say:

* Victoria Kingi, a spokeswoman for the Tauranga Moana iwi in the Kainga Community Housing Partners consortium, said the group was thrilled to have made it so far to this stage of the sale process.
Ms Kingi said this consortium had a real local flavour and was operating in Tauranga.

* Paul Adams, chairman of Accessible Properties, said the organisation was "delighted" to be shortlisted for the purchase. The organisation already managed more than 1500 homes nationally at affordable rents for people on low incomes, and had recently been granted social housing funds from the Government to build 170 affordable rentals for people with social support needs, including 40 in Tauranga.

* Pinnacle Community Housing: "Pinnacle have built a successful housing and regeneration business working closely with some of the most diverse communities in the UK, understanding their cultural needs, and ensuring local residents and stakeholders remain in control of their neighbourhoods.
"We are keen to support the Government's objective to grow and develop the local Community Housing Providers' sector.
"In Tauranga we will do this by working with a number of local organisations who have aspirations either to be involved in service delivery or become Community Housing Providers in their own right. This will provide a culturally appropriate and local solution."

* John Laing Infrastructure Fund: "JLIF is an experienced owner of social housing PPP projects with eight housing and regeneration projects in operation. Its portfolio consists of 59 projects, about 20 per cent of which by value are in countries outside of the UK, ranging from Europe to North America.
"Most of the projects it has owned for several years, which it continues to manage successfully and to the satisfaction of its public-sector clients.
"As it typically does in its projects, JLIF is partnering with an experienced local partner, in this case a housing provider with knowledge of the local market."

* Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions, which has an office in Auckland, did not respond to requests for comment.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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