Hopes high for housing project

By Patrick O'Sullivan

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The prospects for a Flaxmere social housing project in today's Budget are "exciting" says Te Aranga Ltd director and Hastings District Councillor Henare O'Keefe.

Te Aranga Marae has been lobbying for a staged ownership of 316 Housing New Zealand units for a Homes for Families project.

Mr O'Keefe said he was excited at the potential for a possible "hand up rather than hand out".

"Our aim is to get some equity into people's lives.

"We want our people to own their future, own their destiny and not be beholden to welfare."

Finance Minister Bill English said housing affordability and social housing would be "quite a big focus" in today's Budget.

"On social housing there is now a consensus between the Government, the housing providers and social services that the system of state housing needs to change reasonably significantly. So we will be signalling further steps in that," he said.

"We want to see more people providing housing and we have got a number of social housing providers - churches, non-government organisations - who are keen to get access to the same subsidy as the Housing Corporation has.

"There will be no reduction in subsidy, in fact probably an increase, but it will be distributed a bit differently."

Housing Minister Nick Smith announced a $377 million plan to build 500 new state houses in the next two years and convert up to 2000 three-bedroom state houses into four and five-bedroom homes.

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO Wayne Walford hoped the Budget would stimulate jobs and exports.

"They want to balance the books before 2015 so it will be a balancing game."

Hawke's Bay economist Sean Bevin said he was not optimistic of a Budget that would stimulate the Hawke's Bay economy - the Government was more concerned with balancing its books rather than economic development.

Labour's Napier spokesman, Stuart Nash, said he was not confident "good hard-working Kiwis would be better off".

"When you've got 270,000 kids living in poverty and the Government bailing out places like Wanganui Collegiate, you wonder where their priorities are."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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