Housing debate heats up at Select Committee

Social Housing Minister Amy Adams: Photo: Lynn Grieveson

The quality of housing was again the subject of heated discussion at Parliament, when Social Housing Minister Amy Adams fronted up to a Select Committee hearing.

On Wednesday Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford went blow for blow with Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith on housing supply and the way landlords and boarding houses are regulated.

The following day it was Adams turn on the subject, as she appeared before the Social Services Select Committee.

Twyford again took the lead in questioning the Minister, beginning with questions about spending on motels for those in need of accommodation and the provision of transitional and emergency housing.

Adams said to date $21.8 million had been spent placing people in motels.

She said this was more than anticipated, but the policy was unprecedented and the Government would not shy away from supporting those In need.

From September last year to the end of May, the number of transitional houses had risen from 800 to 988.

That figure was expected to rise to 1600 by the end of the month, then 2150 by the end of the year.

Twyford suggested this was a disappointing result, but Adams described it as an “incredible” rate of progress.

“The process is not just to turn up with a kitset on site and start swinging a hammer, there’s a process of resource consent, and building consent, not to mention developing.”

Twyford then moved on to income-related rent subsidies, claiming former Prime Minister John Key’s promise to have 65,000 people receive the benefit had not been met.

He described it as hollow, considering state houses had been sold and there were now not enough for people to move into.

Adams retorted that Twyford was mis-characterising Key’s statements and that the promised $40m increase in spending had actually ballooned to $180m to date.

“What you refer to as a state house selloff is not in fact that at all, it’s a programme of transferring state housing - bear with me Mr Twyford - from Housing NZ to other social housing providers…we don’t have some sort of ideological view that only houses owned by Housing NZ count.”

Finally, Twyford shifted to affordable housing in Auckland, questioning why the Government had only committed to ensure 20 percent of the houses they built would be affordable.

He said the private market could not be relied on to deliver affordable housing.

Adams said the number would be between 20 and 50 percent and it was not the Government’s sole responsibility.

“If you’re asking me if it’s the Government’s job to provide every house that an Aucklander needs, then no I don’t think it’s the Government’s job," she said.