Australia may be able to buy NZ state houses

Australian companies may be able to purchase state-owned houses in New Zealand if they fit the criteria, the government said.

The government announced in early 2015 that it plans to sell thousands of state-owned houses in the country by 2017. There was, however, no identified major local provider.

Non-profit Australian charity Horizon Housing has been looking into buying up to 500 houses.

“So far it looks interesting to us – we’d like to expand our business because we’re good at it and we [will] hopefully make some surpluses and re-invest it into the community,” said Jason Cubit, Horizon Housing’s chief executive.

Housing Minister Bill English said that Australians can buy state houses if they registered as community housing providers: “If they can register as a community housing provider they have to able to meet the criteria, if they’ve got expertise particularly in larger scale operation of owning lots of properties, then we’re interested in doing business with them.”

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford, however, said that English should admit that this sell-off policy “has collapsed.”

“The Salvation Army didn’t want a bar of it. Iwi leaders said they’d only take them if they got them for free,” Twyford added.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei, who said that state houses should be run by Housing New Zealand working with local housing groups, said that there is a lot at stake: “Australian businesses and charities could potentially become some of the wealthiest and most powerful landlords in New Zealand, and they’ll be overseeing the tenancies of our most vulnerable, needy people.”

Cubit said that they are interested in the houses because they want to expand their business–“because we’re good at it and we [will] hopefully make some surpluses and re-invest it into the community.”