The Government has defended its state housing policy after new figures revealed almost 2000 people had been tenants for at least 30 years.
National's housing spokesman Phil Heatley said too many people had been trapped into welfare and his party would give them the chance to buy their homes, the proceeds going towards a replacement.
Housing Minister Maryan Street said the most important thing for the Government was providing security for the most needy.
"We've got the right balance at the moment.
"Housing New Zealand does approach people who are state house tenants whose circumstances might have improved."
Figures released to the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act show there were about 67,000 state home tenancy holders at June 30.
Of those, 1213 had been tenants for 30-39 years, 441 had been for 40-49 years, 252 for 50-59 years and 58 for 60 or more.
The average length of a HNZ tenancy was about seven years.
South and central Auckland, Wellington, Hutt Valley, Christchurch, Nelson and Marlborough had the highest number of long-stay tenants.
On June 30 almost 10,000 people were on the waiting list, about 250 were in severe need and more than 3700 were in significant housing need.
Heatley said more than 2000 state houses had been identified as significantly under-occupied, with two or more spare bedrooms.
"They are often tenanted by those who raised their families there many decades ago.
"These people, often elderly, would more likely be grateful to be offered a smaller, tidy and more-manageable house in the same neighbourhood to live in.
"This would then free up their current home to one of the many large families currently languishing on the waiting list."
Housing New Zealand spokesman Nick Maling said tenants could stay in state homes as long as they liked, providing they abided by the terms of their tenancy agreement.By Rebecca Milne Email Rebecca