THE HEAD of the Salvation Army in Whanganui says he fears for the vulnerable in the city while the Government continues to flog off its housing stock.

Major Glen Anderson said every week his staff dealt with accommodation issues, yet all the while central government was getting rid of state housing stock at fire sale prices, with no regard for the impact that was having. His comments follow the release of the Salvation Army's annual "state of the nation" report this week.

Now in its ninth year, the report examines a range of indicators to highlight good and bad aspects of the nation's social and economic conditions.

It said improvements in some social outcomes were thinly spread and were sometimes the result of government agencies changing their targets, rather than real improvement in social wellbeing.

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"The nation still does not take the damage caused by child poverty and homelessness seriously enough," its authors said.

Mr Anderson said houses were still relatively affordable in Whanganui, but a good number of people would never be able to secure one.

As a member of the city's emergency housing trust he was concerned with Housing NZ selling off its properties. "It leaves the vulnerable ones needing housing, with nowhere to go. Housing NZ will direct them to the private sector. These are people who might be getting $220 a week, yet renting from the private sector could cost them $160-$170 a week," he said.

"They're flogging off homes almost below cost, but it's an approach which is directly affecting private homes owned in those neighbourhoods. When you're flogging off houses at $40,000 you've got no concern for the effect that has on the private housing stock in that area."

It represented Housing NZ's "strategic and intentional withdrawal" from the provinces to release resources for the main centres. Mr Anderson said itinerant people arrived in Whanganui "thinking all their dreams are going to be met" but they ran into housing issues. "Because of Whanganui's affordability it's attracting the vulnerable people who come here thinking there are prospects. But for prospects you need work."

Another concern was the city's elderly, and he worried about the district council's talk of quitting its pensioner housing portfolio.

"Pensioner housing is not a core service of council, but it's a necessary one, because if council doesn't pick that up for some of the most vulnerable elderly, who does?"

-Full report on www.salvationarmy.org.nz/MovingTargets.