Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Housing NZ: Not for sale!

Housing protest, Glen Innes, Auckland

Housing NZ’s own press release admits cutting state housing: “The northern Glen Innes redevelopment project proposes the redevelopment of 156 properties to create at least 260 new homes, including: 78 that Housing New Zealand will own; at least 39 other affordable homes (possibly owned or managed through other social or community housing providers); the remainder for private sale”.‘Redevelopment’ in Glen Innes means selling off most of the land and halving the number of existing state houses!

Government attacks

The NACT Govt has announced its knives are out for more attacks on the social wage of the working class. Housing NZ has cut the accommodation supplement to income-related rents for beneficiaries and low-paid workers. The government’s propaganda line is to bring state rents into a “level playing field” with community trusts.  Yet the Housing Minister has also said “the state can no longer afford to meet the need for social and affordable housing by itself, and wants to encourage "third-sector" non-profit trusts”. We expect more cuts given the presence of welfare working group members on the latest government committee.

After the “Tamaki transformation” development, Housing NZ will only own and manage 30% (78/260) of the housing. Of course the prime land values will be go into private pockets as Housing NZ properties not sold off will be on the cheaper land (bottom of the hill – less sun, no views). HNZ is already in bed with private capitalists –Fletchers and McConnell Dowell have directors on the Housing NZ board.
Now Housing NZ and Auckland city council have sub-contracted the whole “transformation” to the “Tamaki Redevelopment Company”. Government has put $5 million in (and is 59% owner) the council has put in $3.5 million (for 49% ownership). The company wants the “private sector” to invest funds and make a profit. Instead of providing social housing the state will be collaborating in the profiteering of property developers. This is proof that Mayor Len Brown’s election promise: “I won’t privatise” was a lie.
Charity dumping

The NACT Govt is dumping housing responsibilities and cutting the contribution to the social wage made by state housing. They have contracted out more “social” housing through a ‘social housing unit’. An allocation of $8.81 million has also gone to Accessible Properties NZ, a wholly owned subsidiary of IHC, to provide accommodation for people with intellectual disabilities. A grant of $1.3m, went to the Comcare Charitable Trust for building 20 single person units around Christchurch – This is peanuts when you look at shortage of housing and the failure to replace and repair state housing that is red stickered.  But is enough to buy out Comcare so Annette Sutherland (their housing manager) is now working for the government on how to get out of “social” housing by part-privatising to more charities.

Local churches and charities may also be bought off by a government lolly scramble for $104 million available for “social housing funds”. Social housing was what State housing (Housing NZ) was all about, now the government is contracting this out to the private sector and trusts. The Ponsonby Rd Baptist Church has it's hand out. Their ‘Community of Refuge Trust’, “will receive $3.89m to build clusters of 31 one- and two-bedroom units”. This is a payout to the trust to echo the NACTs  own bullshit. Trust chief executive Peter Jeffries thinks, ‘government is prioritising social housing’. The 30% public/ 70% private sell-off in Glen Innes/Tamaki exposes that as an outright lie.

Charity is no long-term solution for meeting working class needs. Charities are under control of the state as they are dependent on state funding to expand – and charities that criticise or challenge the government are frozen out of existence by a freeze in state funding – while those that cosy up and spout the governments lies receive funding. The government can pick winners who repeat their lies, and try to meet the needs of the “deserving poor”. The losers will be charities that dare to question the government version of reality and the government’s continuing attack on the “undeserving poor” and “benefit bludgers”. Charities shift the debate from income based rents with plans to charge 70%-80% of market rents: cold charity.

Rents attacked

The Auckland housing need is growing at approx. 250+ new houses per month according to the City Council estimate. Yet only 50 per month are being built currently. The “market” will push up rents. Housing NZ rents are fixed at 25% of the tenants' incomes. But the Government is gearing up to attack income based rents. NACT complains about “giving” Housing NZ just over $600 million a year as the difference between market rents and rents limited to 25% of income. Through WINZ NACT pays $1.2 billion a year in accommodation supplements for 312,000 people, more that 50% of total private rentals; charity for private landlords and their capitalist bankers. 

How about meeting needs?

Capitalist developers are proven failures – building shoddy or leaky homes for a quick profit; going bust, leaving unfinished buildings and developments, and leaving people in sub-standard housing. Capitalism has failed to provide affordable housing!

It was a National government in the 1990’s that destroyed housing standards and set the scene for the leaky building problems. Allowing free-market cowboys to run the whole building and property development ‘industry’ – for profit, and not even able to meet basic housing needs. This government will not fix the housing shortage. Housing NZ has no plan to contribute to meet this need – instead they are privatising. Elderly applicants are told that they will die before they get into a HNZ house! We know that there are three families packed into 3-bedroom houses in Auckland, while others live in one bedroom boarding houses. The health system is burdened with diseases of poverty, including illnesses created by overcrowded and substandard housing.

No parliamentary solutions

Anyone who has any faith in a so-called Labour Party or the Mana Party needs to demand that their Party calls the asset sales “theft” and demand that they take the assets back without compensation – on winning the next election!

We have no confidence that those “left” parties will fight these assets sales. They are in the job of using Parliament to manage capitalism. Capitalism is facing a global depression and is desperate to restore profits. The only way out for them is to make the working class pay for their crisis: stealing our assets; attacking the social wage (health, education and housing) and driving down wages and conditions.  

The government is failing to meet people’s needs. They do not listen to the needs for housing – instead all they listen to is the capitalists desire to take profits and so they will sell, sell and sell. The asset sales are theft of state property paid for by the working class over the generations.  Housing represents part of the social wage defined as state provision of services paid for by taxation. While the capitalist claim the right to buy up public assets that are part of our social wage, we claim the right to expropriate their private wealth made on the backs of the working class! When the government doesn’t listen and doesn’t meet our needs we have to fight back – and we have to fight back in ways that they cannot ignore.

Take back all stolen assets/ no compensation!

For strikes and occupations – block the ruling class from their profit taking – then the State will know the power of the organised working class. Build strikes that shutdown production – that do not let scab labour in. Occupy factories and assets to show workers can control production.

For workers control of housing developments

Construction workers and HNZ tenants unite to plan and build new housing! The working class built those houses and will build the new houses to meet our needs only workers control! State housing began under a Labour Government when the working class was well organised and strong enough to win a good living standard. The Karl Marx Hof in Vienna (Austria) is another example of a state housing project provided by a ‘labour’ – social democratic government in the early 1930s.

While a fightback is on in Glen Innes, Mangere, Mt Roskill, New Lynn and Royal Oak are also in for a Housing NZ selloff. The outer suburbs will also be under the hammer. This is an attack on the social wage of the whole working class.

  • For a workers council of Glen Innes! And when we say ‘workers’ we mean the whole working class, including beneficiaries and state house tenants.
  • Smash market rents – for workers councils to set affordable rents in the area, and maximum of 25% of income.
  • Occupations and pickets to stop house removals! No house removals unless they are under tenants and workers control to meet the needs of the community!
  • For community self-defense squads! Prepare, be ready to defend pickets and occupations against police brutality.
  • Smash the monopoly of Fletchers building and/or nationalise building companies under workers control with no compensation to the capitalist-share holders. Stop the finance capitalist profiteering from housing, for workers control of the banks!
  • Socialise the building industry under workers control to build enough high standard affordable housing for all those that need housing!

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