Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off
Upper Hutt, NZ, 4 June – Residents in a State housing community in Upper Hutt are continuing to mobilise to strengthen opposition to planned sell-off of Housing NZ vacant land, and planned further demolition of so-called “un-safe, earthquake-prone” State houses.
Following from previous meetings organised by local community worker and activist, Teresa Homan (pictured on right);
– read out a petition to Bill English that has been launched calling on the withdraw of public-owned land in Trentham, Upper Hutt, from sale to private developers.
[A full copy of the petition form can be downloaded here]
Ms Homan said she had already been gathering signatures and was “pleasantly surprised” that only a few people had refused to sign it.
Ms Homan represents the St Joseph Parish Justice, Peace, and Development Group. She said that the vacant land they were standing on had recently been filled with State housing that were homes to several families. She said some of families may have been relocated to other State houses further away in Timberlea, or private rentals elsewhere, up-rooting children from their local schools and disrupting their established education and local connections to the community.
Transience is a well-recognised problem for low-income families, as they do not have guaranteed security-of-tenure. A 2010 Ministry of Justice “working document” referred to hardship for vulnerable families, including transience;
Barriers to engagement in services by “hard-to-reach” groups include service level or structural barriers (e.g. location, hours of operation, cost, lack of awareness about availability, lack of cultural responsiveness, and poor coordination between services), and barriers specific to families and their situations (e.g. transience, low literacy, physical or mental health issues, domestic violence, lack of transport, low income, negative perceptions of services, and generally chaotic lives).
There is good evidence about how policy-makers and service providers can address these barriers and improve engagement by those who are hard-to-reach.
Ms Homan said the buildings had been torn down, ostensibly because they were “earthquake prone”. She added that that bulldozers and other wrecking machinary had had difficulty in tearing down the structures.
The land was now for sale to private developers. There is no guarantee that social housing will be built on the site. Ms Homan said she was fearful that Housing NZ would be moving fast to sell the land. She said,
“This is about this local community, but it’s also about land that we own as the public of New Zealand. So, once it’s [public land] sold, it’s gone. And it’s not about not allowing people to have private ownership of land, but this land’s owned by the New Zealand public.
…I think we need to hold onto the land we have for those families that can’t afford private [rental] homes.”
Ms Homan said she had been in contact with Housing NZ and when asked if they had claimed the demolished houses were the “wrong size, wrong place”, she agreed that statement had been used. She said she had lodged an Official Information Act (OIA) request seeking an explanation why the houses had been deemed “wrong size, wrong place”.
[See related story: State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?]
One State house tenant, Wayne (pictured below, in wheelchair) has been waiting for a new state house for four and a half years that is better suited to his disability and use of a wheelchair;
Wayne said that whilst he had ramped access to his home, and a wet-area in the bathroom, that the rooms in his house and doorways were too small to accomodate his frame and wheelchair. He said he was waiting for an appointment with Upper Hutt mayor, Wayne Guppy, to discuss his case.
About twenty people from the local community turned up for the petition launch;
Their signs publicised the concerns they felt at how Housing NZ and the National government were impacting on their lives;
One particular sign, bearing three simple words, was hammered into the ground – a symbolic statement from the community to the National government and Housing NZ;
The size of the now-vacant land is considerable;
– especially when seen in conjunction with near-by properties;
Contrasting National Minister Paula Bennett’s recent announcement offering State house tenants $5,000 to leave Auckland, with the steady decline of state houses in the Hutt Valley, Rimutaka’s Labour MP, Chris Hipkins voiced his exasperation,
“So while the number of state houses in the Hutt Valley is shrinking, and people are being bumped off waiting lists because there aren’t enough houses available, the government have a genius idea to increase demand even further. This is just nuts.”
At a time of rising homelessness and on-going sell-off of Housing NZ homes and land, there is no indication that the National government is changing it’s policy-course. This is despite a recent public opinion poll which condemned National’s inaction of the worsening housing crisis;
Upper Hutt is just another community enjoying National’s “Brighter Future”.
Fairfax media: Answer to school transience needed
Upper Hutt Leader: HNZ land sell-off resisted
TV3 News: Government gets thumbs down on housing
Facebook: Upper Hutt State Houses 4 U
Facebook: Housing NZ Tenants Forum
Previous related blogposts
TangataWhenua.com: Veteran Activist hospitalised during removal of state houses (2012)
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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 June 2016.
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