State house boom in west (N.Z.)
AucklandStuff - 23 May 2003 

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By JULIAN SLADE and STEPHEN FORBES

Up to $75 million worth of state homes are due to be built in Auckland over the next four years and a good proportion are expected to be in the western suburbs.

The Government has announced a $260m overall funding package to help low-income and at risk tenants.

It is adding an additional $100m for state housing over the next four years, with three-quarters of new homes planned for Auckland, where waiting lists are highest.

Acting Housing Minister Steve Maharey says the extra money will allow for about 318 extra houses in addition to those already planned.

Housing New Zealand spokesman Tom Bridgman says the exact location of new state homes has yet to be decided.

But he says west Auckland is a particular pressure area and is likely to get some of the cash pushed in its direction.

Figures released in October show the northwest region, incorporating offices in Henderson, New Lynn and Mt Albert, has one of the highest waiting lists in the country.

Before Christmas, the Henderson office had a backlog of 787 applications, while New Lynn had 778.

The overall area was getting about 77 new applications a month.

Most were going straight on to waiting lists because of a low turnover among tenants.

Mr Bridgman doubts the money will be spent at Hobsonville where former air force land has been earmarked for a state housing development.

"That's more long term. Hobsonville is much further out in terms of development over the next four years."

Mr Bridgman says the Budget announcement also includes money to extend existing state houses to cater for a shortage of larger homes.

Mr Maharey says demand for bigger houses is high.

"Some of the new funding will go towards converting 80 three-bedroom houses into four-bedroom or larger homes to better suit bigger families.

"Currently only about 8 per cent of Housing New Zealand houses have four or more bedrooms. Forecasts suggest that figure needs to be much higher and reconfiguring existing houses is often the more cost effective way of meeting that need."

The raft of Budget measures includes about $60m for a state home modernisation programme, on top of $30.5m already planned over the next three years.

And $63m is earmarked to encourage greater involvement in housing by local government and third sector groups such as churches, non-governmental organisations and Maori.

About $26m will go toan extra 77 community houses to be used by a range of community groups.

A further $5.3m has been allocated for a two-year pilot home ownership mortgage insurance scheme. The scheme is scheduled to begin later this year. Details are being developed.

Education and information services for tenants will be expanded with an extra $1m budgeted, with a particular focus on at risk groups, Mr Maharey says.