Outrage over Housing NZ house sale


A Queenstown social agency manager is outraged a government state house has been sold while there’s a housing crisis in the resort.

The two-bedroom house in Frankton Rd, with lake views, sold at auction yesterday for $665,500, after Housing New Zealand said it could not be tenanted.

Happiness House manager Karen Stuart said after the auction she thinks 10 people her organisation worked with meet the social housing criteria.

As well, the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust has more than 300 households on its waiting list.

“That money’s not going back to us,” Stuart says.

“They’re [the government] never going to be able to afford to buy a piece of land here and build a couple of units, which is what they should be doing.”

Stuart – who contacted Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay and Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett in an attempt to stop the auction – says renters are being moved from houses because of escalating rents and owners putting their houses on accommodation websites to maximise their returns.

“We’ve got people here who can’t leave the area … They’ve got jobs here. They’ve got family here. They’ve got community here.”

Salvation Army community worker Hine Marchand describes the auction price as “unbelievable”, while noting that’s what many houses are going for now.

Housing Trust executive officer Julie Scott says it’s disappointed the government is selling state houses when there is ”a real housing crisis”.

“It’s such a shame that it’s gone to waste when it could have been used by a low-income household who genuinely needed it.”

In 2007, the trust bid to manage Housing NZ’s Central Otago portfolio of about 40 state houses, stretching from Queenstown to Roxburgh and across to Ranfurly, but it was rejected.

“I have got literally hundreds of house holds who would be delighted to live in that house.”

The 2013 Census reported there were 11,190 private dwellings in the Queenstown Lakes district.

Housing NZ owns 15 properties in the Queenstown Lakes district, 10 in Queenstown and five in Wanaka.

Housing NZ regional portfolio boss Monique Fouwler says in an emailed statement two of those 15 properties were vacant - the Queenstown house which sold at auction and one Wanaka house.

“There has consistently been very low demand for social housing in the region for some time and the property sold today is a good example that highlights that lack of demand.”

Anyone applying for social housing through the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is assessed for their housing need and placed on its Social Housing Register, she says.

The register data, which was released quarterly by MSD, had also consistently shown low demand for social housing in the Queenstown Lakes district.

“As the country’s largest landlord, it’s much better practice to look at selling them and invest the money in areas where there is demand and the proceeds from today’s successful auction will enable Housing NZ to do that.”

But Scott says the trust has “dozens and dozens” of households on its waiting list who should qualify for state houses.

There has been a longstanding problem with the state housing process in Queenstown, she says.

“We have heard for years how people would ring up Housing NZ - now it’s Work and Income - and say ‘I’m struggling, I want to be put on the waiting list for a state house’.

They were told there was no waiting list because there were no houses available.

“That’s just confusing and doesn’t make any sense.”

RNZ last night quoted Housing NZ as saying the waiting list for houses in Queenstown is two.

Bidding at yesterday’s auction started at $400,000 and bobbed mainly between two men in the room.

The 90sqm house, on a 496sqm section, was built in 1994.

Asked to comment on the sale, Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay says: “It’s a Housing NZ issue and therefore inappropriate for me to comment.”

Otago Daily Times