Should Auckland's public houses be lumped together in big housing estates or should they be blended into the community?

That was the debate former Labour politician John Tamihere tried to ignite today when he spoke to an Auckland Council meeting and accused its development arm, Panuku, of "corruption".

As chief executive of the non-profit Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust, Tamihere wants to buy council land in Papatoetoe in South Auckland and turn it into an almost exclusive state housing development that would be sold to Housing NZ.

Panuku instead wants a future developer to create a mix of housing on the land.

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This would limit the number of public homes to about one-third of the total of new properties built on the land, with the rest likely being a mix of so-called affordable homes and houses sold at market prices.

Dominic Foote from non-profit group, NZ Housing Foundation, who spoke after Tamihere, said mixed housing developments had been shown by numerous international studies to help create healthy and happy communities.

But Tamihere called it "social engineering" and discriminatory to restrict the amount of public houses in a development.

His lawyers even believed it violated the Human Rights Act, he said.

With Auckland in desperate need of homes, council should just get out of the way and let developers build large blocks of state housing as quickly as possible, he said.

Tamihere also claimed Panuku was corrupt because its lawyers had not sent a reply to him about whether their policy was a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Mayor Phil Goff warned his accusation was defamatory.

CR Chris Darby says many studies have shown the best community results come when developments have a mix of housing styles. Photo / Greg Bowker
CR Chris Darby says many studies have shown the best community results come when developments have a mix of housing styles. Photo / Greg Bowker

Councillor Chris Darby then asked Tamihere what studies or "empirical evidence" he had to back his claims, given many other studies had shown the best results came from creating a mix of housing.

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"Don't worry about empirical evidence," Tamihere replied.

He instead claimed it was impossible to create an ideal mix of people living at the Papatoetoe site.

This was because investors would quickly buy any home that wasn't a state house and then rent it back to locals at market rates rather than as a Government subsidised rental.

However, Housing Foundation's Foote later said there were almost 200,000 families in New Zealand who were likely not wealthy enough to afford to buy a KiwiBuild home and were earning too much to be given access to state housing.

Therefore it was important for new developments to also give them the chance to buy an "affordable" home rather than just building state housing.

Foote also said many people in state housing needed help from "wrap-around" support services offered by community groups.

However, if the Government went ahead and built large blocks of state homes, he questioned whether they would then be able to continue providing this support as funding priorities inevitably changed with each passing election.