14 Dec 2015

Group opposed to state house sell-off accused of bullying by minister

5:12 pm on 14 December 2015

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has accused a group opposing the sell-off of state houses of bullying tactics, after it targeted one of the organisations expressing interest in the properties.

Social Housing Action Network Wellington spokesperson, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati.

Social Housing Action Network Wellington spokesperson, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati. Photo: RNZ / Kate Gudsell

The Social Housing Action Network said IHC - a charity that provides services to people with intellectual disabilities - was helping the government shirk its responsibility for housing vulnerable people.

The government is planning to sell 1140 houses in Tauranga and another 370 in Invercargill will be sold to registered providers.

IHC subsidiary Accessible Properties is the country's largest non-government social housing provider and has said it is interested in the Tauranga houses if it works for the people it supports.

The network picketed IHC's head office in Wellington, but only a handful of people turned up.

The group's Wellington spokesperson Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati said the government should not be selling state houses, and Accessible Properties should not be putting its hand up for them.

She said they were naming and shaming IHC.

"They've refused to meet with us, so they're intent on buying state houses, we need them to not do that, we need them to say no and leave state houses for the state."

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said the group were playing petty politics.

"So to turn around and try and bully a fantastic organisation like IHC because they have some ideological bent on who should own the houses instead of recognising the poor people that actually need our assistance, I think is actually petty and small-minded, and almost bullying behaviour."

Accessible Properties general manager Andrew Wilson said in a statement it had the capacity to increase the amount of good quality affordable housing for people. He said the organisation was concentrating its efforts in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch.

"We have long been on the record saying we are interested in state houses in Tauranga and we remain committed to the process that could see the sale of those properties.

"However, it's too early to know whether this deal is for us - we won't enter into a deal unless we can be sure we are going to improve conditions for tenants."

Providers have until February to express their interest in the state houses.

Protestors picketing IHC's head office in Wellington.

Protestors picketing IHC's head office in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Kate Gudsell

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