Monday, March 23, 2015

The wheels come off

For the past four months, National has been pushing its big "solution" to the housing crisis: shuffling the deckachairs by selling state houses at a loss to the community sector. It won't result in any more houses being built, and so it won't actually address the problem - but it will let National say it is Doing Something without doing anything which might devalue their own extensive housing portfolios.

But now the wheels have come off the policy, because the Salvation Army - the charitable agency the government was looking to to buy all those state houses - has said that they don't want a bar of it:

The Salvation Army has decided against buying state homes off the Government, a blow the Labour Party says is "hugely embarrassing".

The decision came after a study to test its capacity to become a major social housing landlord.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed earlier plans to go through the transfer in January. The plan is to transfer more of the responsibility for housing low-income and vulnerable tenants by selling a portion of housing stock to community providers such as churches, iwi and non-government organisations.

But Major Campbell Roberts, of the Salvation Army, says the church organisation does not believe "the lives of tenants would be sufficiently improved by such a transfer".

Nor did it have the "expertise, infrastructure and resources to successfully manage any social housing transfer of size", he said.

This should mean the end of the policy, because if the Salvation Army, one of the biggest charities in the country, doesn't think it can manage these houses, then nobody else can. Sure, a few iwi and smaller charities might be able to handle ten houses here, ten houses there. But the government wants to dump thousands. Its just not going to work.

But this policy was never about working - it was simply about dumping state housing and reducing the capacity of the state. So instead of admitting defeat, Bill English is instead talking about mass-privatisation to property developers and the private sector. You know, the same people who have caused our current housing crisis by refusing to cater to the bottom end of the market. So, instead of seeing merely a shuffling of deckchairs, with social housing moved to other providers because National just doesn't think the government should be in the business of ensuring every kiwi has a roof over their heads, we'll instead see these houses given to speculators, given a quick lick of paint and a new kitchen before being flicked on at enormous profits in the overheated Auckland property market, or simply demolished to make way for more palazzos for the rich. Because that's what National thinks housing policy is about: feeding speculation and providing houses for pricks like them, not for ordinary kiwis in desperate need.