Don’t rush housing legislation through says Caritas

A bill to introduce changes to the social housing sector announced in Budget 2013 passed its first reading in Parliament last Friday.

The Social Housing Reform (Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Amendment Bill) allows private sector groups to be allowed to replace Housing New Zealand as providers of social housing.

However, Catholic social justice agency Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand warns that rushing legislation to implement new housing policy could actually undermine promising new housing initiatives in the 2013 Budget.

Caritas Director Julianne Hickey welcomes the recognition in the Budget of the need to address crucial issues affecting the wellbeing of New Zealanders, including housing and child poverty.

‘We particularly welcome the new spending on rheumatic fever, home insulation and the extension of Income Related Rent subsidies as an acknowledgement that the Government has listened to the Children’s Commissioner Expert Advisory Group,’ says Mrs Hickey. ‘However, we will continue to debate the scale and detail of particular policy initiatives – much more can and needs to be done.’

In particular, Caritas is deeply concerned that two new housing initiatives are being fast-tracked through the legislative process. Turn-around times of two weeks and six weeks for each of the new housing bills at Select Committee means a reduced time available for public submissions.

‘The housing situation is serious,’ says Mrs Hickey, ‘and it is affecting the wellbeing of many New Zealand families. However, we have serious concerns that fast-tracking both Parliamentary legislative and Council resource consent processes will not deliver good outcomes either.

‘Homes are more than just walls and buildings. They are about people living together as families and as communities. Good planning results in quality, stable homes and communities. Decision-makers must consider the environmental impact of housing, and the adequate availability of services such as public transport, schooling and health services to ensure a good quality of life of all families who live in new homes.’

Inadequate planning and monitoring have previously resulted in leaky homes, or homes built on land subject to liquefaction or other environmental disasters, says Mrs Hickey. ‘Protecting the environment and protecting our most vulnerable citizens requires consideration of the needs of the earth and the people who live on the earth.’

‘We also find it strange that in a year where housing features prominently in the Budget, and where new housing policy is being implemented, that the Budget drops funding for housing policy advice from $8 million to $6.8 million.’


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