‘Save Public Housing’ appeal

Well-known author pens plea to Horowhenua Councillors — ‘Please save our pensioner houses’

By Alan Tristram

Judith Holloway, the well-known Levin (and former Otaki) writer, is developing a new talent — political letter writing.

Her subject is the appalling plan master-minded by Horowhenua councillors to sell off 115 much-needed council pensioner houses.

She’s been writing personally to all Horowhenua District Councillors asking them to see sense on the issue.
And Kapiti Independent News thinks all New Zealanders should read Judith’s letter (below) and take action to save public housing as the housing crisis worsens.

 Judith writes:
‘Dear Horowhenua Councillors,
You have all received a previous email from me objecting strongly to the way things are being done on behalf of the citizens and rate-payers of our region.
The only Councillor who bothered to reply to my previous email was Cr Bernie Wanden.

I write now URGENTLY asking you to not to go down the road of privatising our pensioner housing. Doing this is against all the great principles on which modern New Zealand was built.

Pensioner flats in Levin
Ordinary citizens like myself are proud and grateful that the caring, socialistic policies that gave us an excellent Social Welfare system, State Housing, Pension Schemes, Unionism, free Education and Health Care for all was, and in some ways still are, the envy of people in many other countries — including the USA.
The policies that shaped modern New Zealanders
These are the policies that made us the people we are: egalitarian, neighbourly, trustworthy, secure, pretty ‘classless’ and non-racist, free-thinking and just.
The most Right-wing Govt. since Roger Douglas
Obviously, the driving force behind this blatant attempt to sell community-owned housing is the present National Government, which is the most Right-wing government we have had since Roger Douglas began his disastrous sell-off of State assets in the 1980’s.
(PM David Lange had taken his eye off the ball and it’s clearly time the Labour Party apologised for its passivity over that era in its history.)
Okay, so there’s money ($5m+) to buy up the stock of housing in this region to put into the hands of private investors. ‘The Market Knows Best’ and all that!
The trouble is, we citizens know only too well what happened when our precious community assets (built up by our forebears) went into the hands of rich investors.
What privatisation brought
Charges for services increased out of all proportion to income. (Think power, telephone, postage, railways, bus transport, television and radio, banks, insurance, medical/hospital charges, education…on and on.)
With so much of our previous industry now sold to overseas interests in order to make use of slave labour in Third World countries, and the downgrading of legitimate Unionism, no wonder we have unemployment, low wages, a huge increase in mental health issues, excessive drug-taking and crime, despair and depression –  and shocking inequality!
Investing in housing stock has become a major income-earner for wealthy investors. They invest for one reason only – to make a profit. And it doesn’t take much ‘creative accounting’ to make sure they pay no tax on such profit. Even the ‘Accommodation Supplement’ advantages the investor, not the poverty-stricken people whose rents are being subsidised.
It’s one more potent element that has been, and still is, distorting the housing market and putting ordinary homes out of the reach of ordinary New Zealanders. 
Pride in helping friends and neighbours
Surely, all decent, democratically-elected representatives (both local and national) would wish to feel pride in putting their efforts into providing and maintaining community housing that helps our disadvantaged friends and neighbours.
They have been doing it since the 1940’s – at first extremely well; in the last 20 years, badly – due to the conning of those (always rich, Right-wing people) who pretend to believe in the efficiency of ‘market forces’. 
‘So what is the problem?’
Our Horowhenua pensioner/disability housing stock has been remarkably well maintained up until now. It brings in nearly $1m a year which should pay for maintenance. So what the heck is the problem with keeping it?
Many people in our region – probably the majority – are keen to see our Council, and indeed our next Government, shoulder this responsibility on behalf of us voters.
Let us grab the $5m+ suspensory loan, thank the Government, and use it to build some more houses and flats for those who need them.
Plan for temporary housing
Furthermore, let’s see some of the disused warehouses in southern Cambridge Street turned into marae-style temporary, safe housing for people down on their luck.
Community groups all over the Horowhenua will show themselves totally willing to help raise money, provide furnishings, expertise and energy to support such innovation.
This is a begging letter, asking for your support. I will be very interested to hear back from any of you who agree with me. It would be good news to pass on to others in the community.

Editor’s note:the Horowhenua mayor, Michael Feyen, wants to keep pensioner housing.

Apart from parking fines and consent fees, the council did not have much else in the way of income, Feyen says.

He spoke about the issue at his first council meeting as mayor.

“We actually have social housing of top quality,” he said.

“I believe we have a way forward where we can actually retain it.”

Previous mayor Brendan Duffy supported selling the 115 pensioner housing units owned by the council.