Prime Minister John Key has split housing issues across three ministers as National speeds up its shift toward developing social housing by private providers and reducing reliance on state houses.
Mr Key said he wanted the number of houses available for low-income families to increase because there was clearly a need for them, but believed social housing providers should play a bigger role rather than the state.
He discounted a great sell-off of state houses but said the $15 billion stock was a "big sticky asset" for the Government and indicated the proceeds from state house sales could go toward helping social providers develop stock.
"We've seen those social housing providers as better long-term landlords, they've had more flexibility in terms of their approach. We do want to see a growth in the social housing area and we are potentially prepared to put a lot more resources in that area."
His reshuffle will put Finance Minister Bill English in charge of Housing NZ, and he has appointed Paula Bennett to the newly created role of Minister of Social Housing, tying in with her role as Local Government Minister.
Nick Smith is Minister of Building and Housing, charged with affordable housing matters, such as construction.
He would also revisit the Resource Management Act reforms aimed at speeding up housing developments.
Community Housing Aotearoa director Scott Figenshow said sharing housing responsibilities among three senior ministers was a sign of the importance the Government attached to the issue, but he warned against separating "social housing" policies from broader "housing affordability" issues.
"We have always talked about a full housing continuum. We need to see continuity through that continuum, not making new silos," he said.
Many housing providers, such as Habitat for Humanity and the NZ Housing Foundation funded by Sir Stephen Tindall's Tindall Foundation, aim to help low-income people into home ownership as well as providing cheap rental housing.
NZ Council of Christian Social Services president Lisa Woolley, whose agency VisionWest also provides social housing, said the three ministers showed that National was taking the housing issue seriously.
"Putting three ministers together who have been working in the area of housing already should help to continue the reform programme that they have started," she said.
"Paula Bennett, in her Minister of Social Development role, really understood the issues to do with social housing, so she has got traction already. I think this is a really positive move."
Mr English, as Minister of Finance, was already one of two ministers responsible for Housing NZ, along with Housing Minister Nick Smith. The agency is monitored by the Treasury.
Salvation Army social policy director Major Campbell Roberts said there had been a lot of "setting the stage" for more social housing, and now it was time for action.
"Paula Bennett has shown that she is prepared to take action," he said. "Whether we always agree with that action is another point, but she does take action, and I think the housing area is crying out for that."
He said there was a "desperate" housing shortage in Auckland and Christchurch.
"We have got people daily now coming in with what I would describe as critical
situations," he said.
"It's a comprehensive approach that is needed. It's not focusing on one aspect. It requires a focus on the social housing area, it requires a focus on home ownership, it requires getting more people in the medium to low incomes into housing. It requires the sort of approach that will support organisations like the Housing Foundation and Habitat for Humanity and ourselves and others who want to get into the social housing space."