Iwi head wants some state houses on the cheap – but even better, he wants them given away

It sounded like Iwi Chairs Forum spokesman Haami Piripi wants the Government to transfer social housing stock to iwi for free.

Yep. He was reported to be expecting property in which taxpayers have invested heaps to be handed over to iwi for nothing – or if something must be paid, then the price should be of the bargain-basement variety.

His reasoning is set out in this report today:

Mr Piripi told The Nation at the weekend the market price for some state houses is zero because the “outcomes will far outweigh the cost”.

Alf must confess he is not sure what his means.

Maybe this explains things better:

“This is an investment in the population, an investment in families, an investment in housing, and in order to make an investment as a Government, you have to discount the price to make sure that that investment works, the formula that you put in place works,” Mr Piripi said.

Nope.

Alf is none the wiser.

But Piripi obviously recognises the prospect of getting a nice deal on the cheap.

As we all know, the Government is aiming to get rid of between 1000 and 2000 state homes and transfer them to social housing providers.

The programme has begun in Tauranga and Invercargill.

Alf’s mate, Bill English, happens to be Minister in charge of Housing NZ and he says the disposal of the state houses will be a test case for how the rest of the scheme will be carried out.

As for transferring the houses for free, he said no way, although he acknowledged some properties might have little value anyway.

The Government does not want to sell these houses – yours and mine, actually, as the taxpayers who poured money into them – below market value.

“No, we’ll go through a proper process. There may be some which have no value – if you’re in a small town with a house that’s been a P lab, it might be a wee bit hard to get rid of.

“It’s not a matter of giving them away at all. It’s about going through a proper process that’s fully transparent. Not selling for dirt cheap either.”

The proposal showed there was interest in buying the properties, Mr English said.

“There’s plenty of people out there trying to talk the price down because they’d like to get these houses at a low price.”

That’s a bit of a bugger for the iwi leaders.

They are not too fussed about proper process – at least, not the process Alf and his mates regard as proper.

They demonstrate this whenever they try (often successfully) to win positions on local authority decision-making bodies.

Getting elected through a democratic process of one person, one vote is not for them. They prefer that the rest of us allow them to stand for office in separatist electorates or wards reserved for indigenous persons or to short-circuit this voting crap and get appointed to council committees instead.

Interestingly, Labour leader Andrew Little agrees the houses shouldn’t be given away.

Labour doesn’t approve of transferring these properties to other housing providers.

But nor does it want to see any ‘”special” or “cosy” deals.

“It looked like a pretty ambitious opening gambit from a negotiating point of view,” Mr Little said.

“This has been part of our social and Government investment going back decades. There is value in it – these houses were built for a reason to accommodate people who can’t otherwise get housing. There is no way they should be given away to anybody.”

Little makes a good point when he says most iwi which have reached treaty settlements are operating as commercial organisations. If they want to take part in the Government’s plan “it should be dealt with accordingly”, he said.

But these businesses aren’t like any other business.

Not if you take note of what Piripi said in this report:

Maori want to negotiate a deal nationally as a collective of iwi because they are the “best-placed entities to do the business,” he says.

“And the best way to do it is to sponsor us into it by enabling us to utilise money we would normally have used to make a capital purchase to invest – reinvest in the sector.”

And:

When asked if other community housing providers should also get state houses for free, Mr Piripi says: “I can’t think of any other organisation that would invest in the same way that we would and have the same sort of commitment that we have. We’re prepared to co-invest. We’re prepared to utilise our own assets, our own land, our own resources to continue to respond to housing needs.”

He acknowledges that taking over responsibility for providing housing is in the “too hard basket in many ways” but iwi feel “obliged” to house their people.

“When the Salvation Army turned down an opportunity, then you know it’s possibly a lemon.”

In a more recent report, fair to say, Piripi said English’s approach was a responsible one from a minister who had to look out for taxpayers’ interests.

But he said if a house had been used as a P lab, that would obviously affect its value.

“And nobody really knows the effect on the value – it comes down to a relative impact and you discuss that in terms of how you arrive at a value,” he said.

“It’s a bit early to make hardline statements saying ‘we will never do this and never do that’ because, as we sit down to discuss these things, these factors will emerge.

“We’re not asking for something for nothing; we’re just asking for [the] right valuation that reflects both the circumstances and our future ability to contribute.”

A good-old-fashioned auction or tender would sort that out.

Piripi also said there was a point where it would not be feasible for iwi to invest.

That’s true of any investment.

And nobody is forcing iwi, the Salvation Army or anyone else to take over these properties.

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