Allison is a digital reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times

Protest against sale of Tauranga state houses

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Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti, Green MP Jan Logie, Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford, will speak at a protest against the sale of Tauranga's state houses on Saturday. StateHousingProtest
Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti, Green MP Jan Logie, Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford, will speak at a protest against the sale of Tauranga's state houses on Saturday. StateHousingProtest

A protest is to be held to oppose the sale of about 1257 state homes in Tauranga.

Tauranga Social Housing Action Network has demanded the Government not go through with the sale and is holding a protest in Tauranga this Saturday against the plan.

In March, the Government announced plans to transfer state homes and tenancies, worth more than $321 million, to registered community housing providers.

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Vanessa Kururangi of the Tauranga Social Housing Action Network said the protest was the last chance for locals to become properly informed about the transfer proposal.

The network had a range of concerns about the sale, questioning the bulk selling down of a majority of the housing stock as a solution to the growing housing shortage.

"The Government has a responsibility to take care of its citizens and must be reminded of this every time they try to do anything which will adversely affect the most vulnerable members of our communities," Ms Kururangi said.

Ms Kururangi said the sale was "very much an experiment".

There was a shortage of one and two room properties in Tauranga, she said.

"If there is an increased need for smaller properties, surely this can be met through the current purchasing program, or perhaps by selling some larger houses and replacing them with smaller properties?"

A further concern was why Tauranga had been picked on as a trial for the sale process.

"There was also a proposal for a similar sell down in Invercargill where a declining population may have resulted in a genuine surplus of HNZ properties. However, this proposal was pulled through lack in interest.

"By contrast, surely the increasing housing shortage in Tauranga would suggest that we should be one of last places to trial a sell off state houses," Ms Kururangi said.

A petition was circulating through the community and a public protest would take place on Saturday in Red Square from 1pm, with speakers including Phil Twyford, Labour housing spokesman, Jan Logie, Green Party MP, and Jan Tinetti, Merivale School principal.

Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive social housing Carl Crafar said the Government's social housing reform programme was designed to get more people into quality social housing - either through Housing NZ or registered community housing providers.

''To do that we need more options to improve quality and increase supply.''

The future community housing provider would be required to invest and redevelop the existing social houses to better match current and future social housing need in Tauranga over the next 25 years.

The Government was looking for a long-term partner who could provide effective tenancy management and strong links between social housing and the local community, he said.
The purpose of the transfers was to encourage innovation and better combinations of housing and other services that meet tenants' needs, he said.

''It's understandable that the proposed changes could make some tenants anxious. But it is important to note that before a new provider is appointed they will have to prove they can look after the tenants and their properties.'''

Tenants would continue to be housed for the duration of their need.

''Just like now, their rent would only change if their circumstances change. Their rights as tenants will continue to be protected by law, just as they are now.''

The bidders included registered community housing providers that were experienced social housing landlords in both New Zealand and overseas, he said.

The factors behind Tauranga's selection included a stable demand for social housing, the potential for providing specialist services for tenants, and community housing providers interested in providing tenancy services alongside their existing services for vulnerable people, he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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