State house tenants will be able to have pet dogs as part of a more lenient pet-policy, announced by Housing Minister Phil Twyford this morning.
In his first major speech on the future of public housing, Twyford said that there was a role for pets in improving quality of life for Housing NZ tenants. The current policy is that tenants cannot have pet dogs except in special circumstances - such as a certified hearing or sight dog.
"Given how important pets can be to people's quality of life, I favour a more accommodating approach that allows tenants to own pets," Twyford told an audience this morning at the Salvation Army church in Manukau.
He added: "As long as they are properly looked after, not a nuisance or a danger to neighbours, and not damaging property."
Twyford said he wanted Housing NZ to be driven by two principles: to put "a warm dry and secure roof over the heads of Kiwis who need it", and to play "a pastoral care role enabling tenants to have access to the support they need to sustain their tenancies and live with dignity".
He rejected the previous Government's stance of selling off state houses and instead getting charities and the private sector to provide that service.
He has previously indicated that the Government will look at building 2000 state houses a year - double what Labour promised in the election campaign.
Community housing providers would play an important role, he said.
"My vision is not for some quasi-market where community housing organisations are competing for subsidies, but instead a community of housing providers and advocates working in partnership with government."
He also said that the Government would roll out emergency housing across the country, as part of an NZ Strategy to End Homelessness.
"I don't want to see people living in cars and in campgrounds. And it is not satisfactory for the taxpayer to be shelling out $90,000 a day on motels. We need immediate solutions."
He also touched on his KiwiBuild promise to build 100,000 affordable homes for first home buyers, half of them in Auckland.
He has already signalled 40 new houses, half of which will be social houses, for a $12.75m plot of land on Asquith Ave, Mt Albert, with construction to begin early next year - almost five years after its last tenants moved out.
The broader policy platform was to simply build more quality homes, he said.
Last week Twyford appointed three independent experts - economist Shamubeel Eaqub, University of Otago Professor of Public Health Philippa Howden-Chapman and the Salvation Army's Alan Johnson - to lead an independent stocktake of the housing crisis. Their report is due before Christmas.
Last night the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill passed its third reading, which paves the way for minimum standards to ensure homes are warm and dry.
"Our belief is that it is the role of Government to do the things that we can do together as a country, to ensure people have the basics: affordable, secure, warm and dry housing, decent work, good health and education systems," Twyford said.
"If we can restore universal access to secure, warm and dry and affordable housing for all New Zealanders, we will make this country even better than it is."