Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Empty state houses 'unfit'

Only a handful of Porirua's 134 vacant state houses are fit for Aucklanders to live in as proposed by the Government, says the city's mayor. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Only a handful of Porirua's 134 vacant state houses are fit for Aucklanders to live in as proposed by the Government, says the city's mayor. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Porirua is being touted out as a potential destination for Aucklanders seeking a state house, but its mayor says barely a handful of its properties are fit to live in.

Other provincial leaders, on the other hand, say they will take all the people they can get under a proposal which could see tenants paid up to $3000 to move into vacant state houses in the regions.

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett asked yesterday whether the Government should instead be putting the funding into repairing or purchasing properties before it started offering them to Aucklanders.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett's office released records which showed Porirua had 134 vacant state homes.

This was 44 more houses than people on the waiting list, though officials noted that some of the properties were being sold, redeveloped or quake-strengthened.

Mr Leggett, a Labour Party member, said very few of these homes were fit to take tenants. Those in good condition were being offered to Syrian refugees who arrived in the country this week. "I'd say there is next to nothing," he said.

A study published by housing officials last year showed that nearly half of Housing New Zealand's properties were in need of urgent repair.

Other provincial leaders were keener on the Government proposal.

Hutt City's acting mayor David Bassett said his region was more than ready for an influx of tenants from Auckland. Lower Hutt was singled out as having the most state house vacancies in the country.

Ashburton's mayor Angus McKay said the council had been trying to entice newcomers into the region for years. The town had more jobs than workers, he said.

Ashburton and Oamaru were suggested by the minister because their large Pacific communities could appeal to South Aucklanders.

Ashburton had seven vacant houses and the Waitaki district five.

Advocacy groups questioned whether vulnerable tenants would be sent to towns with few job opportunities or social support.

Mrs Bennett said yesterday no one would be forced to move, and tenants would only be sent to regions which had job opportunities or family links.

Auckland Action Against Poverty spokeswoman Sue Bradford said the minister had failed to appreciate the connection between vacant houses and the absence of paid work.

Statistics New Zealand figures show the jobless rate is slightly higher in the Wellington region (6.6 per cent), where the most vacant houses are, than in Auckland (6.2 per cent).

Separate data released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment yesterday showed job vacancies increased in the Wellington region - and most other regions - in the last month.

- NZ Herald

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