• Jenny Shipley
Prime Minister

"National will change the face of public housing in New Zealand so state house tenants can be rightly proud of their suburbs," Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, and HNZ Minister, Tony Ryall, announced in Auckland today.

"We want to improve the experience of living in public housing. It shouldn't be any different from living anywhere else," they said.

"National has a bold plan for the urban renewal of state house suburbs. The future isn't with houses built in the 1930s and 1950s.

"We intend to rejuvenate the state house suburbs and break the cycles of disadvantage. We will achieve a better mix of public and private housing, because we know that helps build stronger and safer communities. Renewal will also include the development of community centres, parks and amenities, and the redevelopment of roading and transport routes.

"The 1930s innovation of public housing was an advance for its time, giving dignity to many people. But time has marched on. What were once shining examples of state housing have become, in some instances, places where people don't want to live.

"Over the last 10 years National has invested over $1.2 billion in upgrading the stock from the neglected state inherited from Labour. Today's announcement is about the next chapter.

"Ageing houses combined with weak community structures and high tenant turnover are contributing to problems in many state house suburbs; problems with health, education, truancy, and crime. Despite spending almost $100 million a year on maintenance, much public housing is in need of a revamp. And so are the neighbourhoods.

"The National-led Government has instructed Housing New Zealand to give high priority to urban renewal, and to develop plans in close co-operation with local communities. We have also instructed there should be no reduction in the number of public homes within the renewed neighbourhoods.

"The plan is to replace thousands of deteriorating state houses, nearing the end of their useful lives, with new modern homes in communities where New Zealanders want to live. At the same time we want to diversify and strengthen the social fabric of the communities involved," said the Prime Minister and Mr Ryall.

"Many of our state houses are on very large sections with the house plonked in the middle. But the days of the quarter-acre section are no longer as relevant to the varying needs of some New Zealand families. For some it's a townhouse, for others a flat.

"Urban renewal will see more intensive use of Housing New Zealand's land resources. We will build a modern mix of housing type, with a blend of public and private homes. Better use of land will see sections made available for private homes, and this will help finance renewal of the public stock.

"The trend to greater density across our towns and cities means we can expand the housing stock without urban sprawl. There is demand for housing closer to the commercial centre of the major cities.

"Many social issues face our state housing communities. These issues are often large and complex.

"We are committed to working with tenants, communities and local councils. This is vital because urban renewal will affect many people's lives, and they must be given every opportunity to get information directly and have their concerns and ideas heard. When choosing a specific location it is vital that HNZ first talks to tenants and communities about their input.

"National wants HNZ to seek partnerships with the private sector to bring their expertise and capital to the project. It will be funded by HNZ equity and private capital.

"A project may take between five and ten years to complete. Indications are that an investment of $400m will be needed for urban renewal of a suburb of 2-2,500 public homes.

"We will ensure state tenants are treated at least as well as private tenants. We don't want either living in slums. And the Accommodation Supplement is the best way of ensuring affordable housing for both," said the Prime Minister and Mr Ryall.