A captain of a fishing vessel in Nelson was making more than $100,000 a year and living in a state house, Housing Minister Nick Smith said last night.

That was wrong and the house should be available to a person of higher need, Dr Smith said during a parliamentary heated debate on the Social Housing Reform (Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Amendment) Bill.

The captain concerned once had a high need for a state house, but no longer did.

The bill, due to pass its third and final reading this morning under urgency, will make all tenancies reviewable.


Until now, only the 10,000 tenants who went into their state houses after July 1, 2011, were able to have their tenancies reviewed if their circumstances changed.

Others have had security of tenure no matter what they earned although the rents rise as the income rises.

Dr Smith said 4000 tenants earned enough to pay the full market rent. Low-income earners pay no more than 25 per cent of their income on rent.

The new law will also allow community housing providers to compete for the income-related rent subsidy to expand their role in provision of social housing.

Dr Smith called the changes the most significant changes to social housing in 75 years and said the bill provided for "a market in social housing".

The measures would ensure state housing would be for those with the highest need.

But Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford accused Dr Smith of "an outrageous double standard" because he had stayed in his ministerial home for six weeks after resigning on the grounds he had not wanted to disrupt his children's schooling yet was willing to impose insecurity of tenure on state tenants.

He said Labour supported the moves that would allow more involvement of community housing but would vote against the bill because of the "incalculable damage" that reviewable tenancy would cause.


Dr Smith said Labour's opposition to reviewable tenancies meant it wanted people earning over $100,000 "to stay in that house forever while there are families with higher needs".