“National’s policy of leaving state houses vacant for months on end makes them a magnet for vandalism and crime.
“In almost every town and city there are dozens of state houses lying vacant as a result of deliberate Government policy. Inevitably these empty properties attract graffiti and anti-social behaviour.
“The Minister has called for a crackdown on wreckers of state houses. Any tenants who damage state houses should be held accountable, but the Minister needs to look in the mirror first. His policy of deliberate neglect and leaving 3000 vacant houses makes him New Zealand’s worst state house vandal.
“A few days ago I visited Highbury in Palmerston North where dozens of Housing NZ properties are empty. The National Government’s neglect of these properties has brought downtown Detroit into the heart of Palmerston North. It is a policy of deliberate urban blight. It is doing damage to the community, and it is Housing NZ tenants and their neighbours who suffer the consequences.
“It is crazy that while 3000 houses lie vacant and boarded up, 4200 families languish on the waiting list. Because National made the criteria for state house eligibility so ridiculously tight, these houses lie empty while thousands of would-be tenants are driven into overcrowded and substandard private rental housing.
“While Nick Smith tries to look tough on state house tenants, his Chief Executive could not even tell a select committee hearing today how much of the $15 million bill for repairing state house properties in 2012 was spent fixing wilful damage. Most of the repair cost was attributed to fair wear and tear, fire, and natural disasters.
“Meanwhile 3000 state houses lie vacant, boarded up, and deteriorating. It is an asset that is probably worth half to three-quarters of a billion dollars. Housing NZ was unable to tell the select committee how much it is spending on security, how much on repairs, and whether they have done any modelling on the loss of value to the taxpayer of these houses sitting vacant , says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.
“National is running a valuable publicly owned asset into the ground. They don’t seem to care about the thousands of struggling families who desperately need a secure and safe roof over their heads.”