Government ministers will have direct control over the sale of state houses if a new bill is passed.

The new legislation, tabled in Parliament today, is designed to facilitate National's plan to sell up to 8000 state houses to community providers.

It gave authority to Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett and Housing New Zealand Minister Bill English to take over Housing New Zealand's role in negotiating and carrying out the sale of state houses.

Mrs Bennett said the bill simplified the process of implementing a crucial part of Government's social housing reforms.


She said that under the current system, it was difficult for the Government to direct Housing New Zealand (HNZ) to transfer specific properties.

"The solution in this Bill is a measured response that enables the Government to transfer HNZ properties, for the purposes of the Social Housing Reform Program, on behalf of HNZ," she said.

Mrs Bennett said the changes would allow Government fulfill its commitment to sell between 1000 and 2000 houses to community providers over the next year.

The bill's introductory note said ministers could only sell or lease properties for the purpose of "social housing reform objectives".

The new powers were expected to only be used "where Housing New Zealand Corporation has not been able to reach agreement".

But Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the law change would put ministers "above the law" and free them from the usual legal requirements for selling state houses.

"It completely cuts Housing New Zealand public servants and Housing New Zealand's legislative requirements out of the picture," he said.

In a statement, Mr Twyford added: "There is a good reason Ministers are supposed to be at arm's length, and that checks and balances are in place.


"This Bill is a charter for corruption at a time when these Ministers are planning to hock off billions of dollars of public assets."

The legislation would allow Mr English to direct any money made from the sale of state houses to go to the Crown instead of Housing New Zealand.

It also removed the requirement for Government to offer any land back to the original owner.

At present, if Crown-owned land is earmarked for sale, its original owners must be given right of first refusal.