By Maggie Tait of NZPA
Wellington, Oct 6 NZPA - More than 1400 state house tenants want to buy the property they live in under a new government scheme but only a fraction will be able to, Housing Minister Phil Heatley says.
Information released under the Official Information Act to Radio Live showed that since last November 1445 tenants had indicated they wanted to buy the Housing New Zealand (HNZ) property they were living in.
Mr Heatley announced in June that tenants would have the option of buying their state houses at market rates but they were only able to apply since September.
As of last Friday 666 tenants had applied to buy their house, and 31 tenants had inquired about purchasing vacant houses.
Critics of the scheme argue it will deplete housing stock and worsen waiting lists.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the number of potential sales was concerning. He said the value of the stock that people had expressed interest in buying was $380 million and it was hard to see how it would be replaced.
"Housing in our country has become unaffordable for many New Zealanders because of the ridiculous housing price bubble overseen by the last government," Dr Norman said.
"The last thing we need is for the current Government to make it worse by flogging off state houses."
The Greens argue for an increase in stock rather than sales.
Mr Heatley told NZPA the Government would make sure more houses were available.
HNZ's statement of intent pledged to increase the number of state houses by 1550 over four years.
"So not only are we replacing the state houses that we are selling to tenants we are building and buying and leasing a whole lot of other ones so what they are saying is absolutely absurd," Mr Heatley said.
"They keep harping on about policies of about policies of 20 years ago and they should get into the modern John Key era where we've decided we want to give people opportunities to buy their state home, build a replacement state home and get someone off the waiting list."
HNZ over the past decade leased 30-40 percent of new stock and the Government would continue that.
"If there's a shortfall we are able to lease. The important thing is the number of state houses available to tenants will be increasing not decreasing."
Mr Heatley did not think that many of those who wanted to buy the houses would be able to.
"The reality is we'll see a few hundred of those purchase their state home. Ultimately they have to secure a loan from the bank and secondly we have to ensure that the state house that's being purchased is not of strategic use, it hasn't got a Treaty covenant over it or any other covenants on selling it."
The Government had informed about 3800 tenants of the scheme -- largely on higher incomes -- but some of those who expressed interest were not from that group.
About 40,000 of the 69,000 stock will be available for sale.
Tenants would have to organise their own finance but the Government extended the maximum amount able to borrowed under the Welcome Home Loan scheme to $350,000.
Many of the tenants who want to buy the properties have lived in them for about 10 years and figures to August of those interested in buying showed houses were worth around $220,000. Values ranged from $65,806 to $874,000.