The govt knocks down old state houses and builds new ones – but the net result is a waiting list that cries out for demolition

It was a simple question about housing and Point of Order listened closely to Housing Minister Megan Woods’ response.

Alas, we are none the wiser on one part of the question, about advice on how long it will take to get the waiting list down to around 5844. But – if we have done our sums correctly – we can tell readers there has been a hefty increase in the numbers of people on the state housing waiting list over the past five years.

We took a crack at working this out after Parliamentary questions were put by National MP Chris Bishop to the Associate Minister of Housing (Public Housing), who presumably was not in Parliament at the time.  Megan Woods did the answering.

Bishop asked:

“How many people are on the State housing waitlist now compared to September 2017, and has she received advice on when that number will return to the levels of September 2017?”

Woods presumably has been a keen student of the art of Political Blather, deserving a pass with honours. 

She began:

“I am proud of this Government’s public housing build programme, the largest of any Government since the 1970s. Since 2017, more than 9,000 new places have been delivered across New Zealand, and 7,300 of these are new builds.”

Yes – but the question simply seeks data on waiting lists and whether advice has been given on the reduction of the list to 2017 levels.

Maybe she will get there soon..

“The national housing crisis we inherited meant that there simply aren’t enough houses. “While we are starting to see progress, we are dealing with the failure of the previous Government to build houses. Not only did the previous Government not build enough houses for the 5,844 people on the waiting list; they ended up with 1,500 fewer public homes across both Housing New Zealand and the CHiPS than they started with.”

That’s encouraging.  We now have  the number – we think – on the waiting list in September 2017.

Woods will now bandy numbers to show how much it has shrunk since then…

Or maybe not:

“The 2017 wait-list did not reflect the real need, and while it will take some time to repair the carnage wreaked by the previous National Government, we are committed to rolling out our record public housing build programme. If the previous Government had built at the same rate as we are building, there would be over—”

The Hansard account of this master class in obscurantism was then interrupted by an  impatient interjection.

Bishop raised a point of order to complain to Mr Speaker that the House had yet to hear anything related to the actual question.

The Deputy Speaker advised him it was unusual for members to interrupt during the answer to a question and to say it’s not being answered

“… when one should probably give the opportunity to hear the answer.

“But seeing as it’s been raised, I disagree with the member. There are aspects within what the Minister has said which do actually address the first part. It doesn’t completely address it so far, but I look forward to hearing the rest of it.”

We were looking forward to hearing the rest of it at Point of Order, too.

“Thank you. So just where we left off: it will take some time to repair the carnage wreaked by the previous National Government, but we are committed to rolling out our record public housing build programme.

“If the previous Government had built at the same rate as we are building, there would be over 22,000 more public houses in New Zealand today …. accounting for over 80 percent of the 26,868 on the current waiting list.”

Phew.  We got there with one part of the question.

If we sift through the verbiage, we find –

  • 5844 on the waiting list in September 2017;
  • 26,868 on the waiting list at the latest count.

After further points of order,  Chris Bishop got to put another question:

“Why did Kāinga Ora build only one net additional State house in the first quarter of 2022?”

Good grief.  Just one!

Surely Megan Woods is going to put him right on that and come up with a much bigger number.

We were all agog while she explained:

If we have a look at the builds that Kāinga Ora has done across the 2021-22 financial year, there are 546. But because we are a Government that is committed to an ongoing building and redevelopment programme, we report these figures as net, so we also subtract off there the houses that we demolish to make way for even more public houses that we will be building.”

Let’s see if we grasp what’s going on: the government pulls down some houses and it builds some houses, and the difference between the numbers of houses pulled down and houses built is the net result.

We suspect Chris Bishop didn’t need a lesson on how the net figures are produced, because he he asked:

Why did she say she was proud of Kāinga Ora’s progress on building when in the first quarter of this year Kāinga Ora built just one net additional State house in New Zealand?

Not for the first time in this question-and-answer session, Woods expressed her pride in what is going on.

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I’m proud of Kāinga Ora’s record on State house building. We have added over 7,000 new-build houses since we have been in Government. We are only beginning to repair some of the carnage wrecked by the previous National Government in the area of housing. But what the member will not understand, because his party fails to understand, is that in order to redevelop and build houses, you have to tear down the ones to redevelop the area.

Bishop presumably was satisfied his colleagues and the broadcast audience would have worked out the nature of the accomplishment in which Woods was taking pride.

He moved on to a question about official advice on the impact of removing interest deductibility on increasing the housing register.

The Minister who would have handled his questions, had she been in the House, is Poto Williams.

She is listed HERE as Associate Minister Minister of Housing (Public Housing)

There are two others on the housing ministerial team:

Peeni Henare is Associate Minister of Housing (Māori Housing)

Marama Davidson is Minister of Housing (Homelessness).

And we are confident they, too, are proud of what is going on in the housing portfolio.

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