In 2017, most of Tauranga's state housing was sold, under a National Party policy, to a community housing provider. But later that year, the coalition put a stop to any future sales. Samantha Motion looks at the legacy of that transfer, and what moves the new Government is making in the fast-growing city.
The coalition Government has spent nearly $9m buying 13 new state houses in Tauranga - but critics say it has public housing progress in the city "on the go-slow".
The spend-up marks a new dawn of state housing in Tauranga, the only city in New Zealand where state houses were sold off en masse under the last National government.
In April 2017, Housing New Zealand (now part of Kāinga Ora) transferred the majority of Tauranga's state houses - some 1138 properties - to community housing provider Accessible Properties.
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The Government changed six months later. By December the new Labour-led coalition had cancelled plans for more state house sales elsewhere in New Zealand.
Then-Housing Minister Phil Twyford said at the time it was "the end of large-scale state housing sell-offs" and the Government would buy and build new state homes "where they are most needed".
According to data released to NZME by Kāinga Ora under the Official Information Act, the Government had purchased 13 properties in Tauranga since taking office, at a cost of $8.9m to September.
Another seven properties were acquired by other means, for a total increase in the portfolio of 20 under the coalition Government.
It spent another $1.8m buying three houses in the Western Bay of Plenty District's Katikati, but bought only one house in each of Rotorua ($683,000) and Taupō ($630,500).
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The figures did not include community group housing or emergency housing.
The Tauranga purchases were split between Pāpāmoa and Pyes Pā, and including new builds in greenfield subdivisions such as Golden Sands.
Prices ranged from $565,000 in Ashley Place, Pāpāmoa, in 2017 to $755,000 in Furlong Rd, Pāpāmoa earlier this year. Properties ranged from two to five bedrooms.
Kāinga Ora government relations manager Rachel Kelly said the organisation preferred to use land it already owned to increase rental housing supply, but sometimes it made "strategic purchases".
It was looking for houses close to amenities, with in-demand bedroom configurations, and in areas that did not have a lot of social housing.
Kāinga Ora owns a total of 200 state houses in Tauranga - 13 new and the rest left over from the 2017 sale.
A spokesman said it had a renewal programme to upgrade 60 per cent of its homes in New Zealand over the next 20 years and was in the early stages of looking at more advanced, modernising upgrades of some older homes in the Bay of Plenty.
Tauranga MP and National Party leader Simon Bridges said the Government was not putting its resources in the right places in Tauranga.
He said it should be doing more to help Accessible Properties - and other community providers - redevelop and modernise older former state housing areas.
In October, Accessible Properties, alongside Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi opened six two-bedroom units in a new duplex built where an old state house duplex with two two-bedroom units once stood on Cameron Rd opposite Tauranga Hospital.
Bridges said in the past two years, Tauranga should have seen a lot more projects like that but the Government was buying up new builds instead.
"My clear impression is that for ideological reasons they are on the go-slow in terms of turning old state houses into warm, dry, fit-for-purpose homes.
"They have to own everything, they don't like the idea of working with local providers.
"Locals can do a much better and more caring job. It could be transformative for communities like Merivale and Greerton."
Accessible Properties' Tauranga team has already proposed to renew one such area.
The Pukehinahina Project would see 140 public houses in Gate Pā replaced with more than 400 new townhouses and apartments.
Accessible Properties Tauranga general manager Vicki McLaren said the organisation had the capacity to increase new supply well beyond its Government-set targets - but the support was not coming fast enough.
"That's the main message for us: we want to partner [with the Government] and we are really well-positioned for it."
McLaren said Tauranga was "disadvantaged" by its unusual public housing ownership arrangement.
"If we were Housing New Zealand we would have that support and be able to grow, but because we're a community housing provider ... the approach in Tauranga is different and not necessarily beneficial to the city."
In most places, the Government owned most of the land used for social housing and could redevelop it through Kāinga Ora to increase supply.
"In Tauranga, the bulk of the land is owned by Accessible Properties so that growth agenda is not necessarily happening.
"It is critical we do something soon."
Since taking over the Tauranga stock, Accessible Properties had added 23 new properties with 16 more under construction, 12 in the design and consent phase and 20 sites under investigation.
Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi said demand for housing continued to exceed supply in the Bay of Plenty and elsewhere in New Zealand.
The Government was responding with "the most ambitious public housing building programme in decades".
"More houses becoming available in Tauranga will support more local people into warm, dry, and secure housing, which is the goal this Government has for every New Zealander."
He thanked Accessible Properties for its work, saying community housing providers were an important part of the effort to provide good quality public housing options.
Hundreds wait for housing
The waiting list for social housing had increased by almost 150 per cent in Tauranga and the Western Bay since September 2017, according to Ministry of Housing and Urban Development figures.
Then, there were 178 people on the housing registry. In September 2019, it was 430 people.
The list of people in public housing waiting to transfer to a more suitable house had grown from 26 to 35 in the same period.