Housing: Something to hope for

Housing is a key policy for Labour this election. In fact it always has been. The first Labour government championed state housing and by 1939 5000 state houses had been built.

Our communities have changed, grown, diversified, citified, with the make up of families today being very different to the 1930’s.

In 2008 Housing New Zealand (HNZ) began dismantling its housing stock in the suburb of Marfell. Some of these houses were trucked to Springhill Correction Facility, with the plan of renovating and reconfiguring the size of the houses, to then be redistributed to HNZ locations around the north island. The plan in Marfell was to create modern housing, that met the needs of 21st century communities and families.

What a great idea, redeveloping tired housing stock, while supporting prisoners to gain qualifications and skills that would help them with their reintegration into society. This was March 2008. At the time Taranaki regional manager of HNZ Peter McKenna said the changes in Marfell were part of their commitment to ‘‘enhance the community and address social issues in the area’’. McKenna said that redevelopment plans would be finalised within three months.

Marfell is still waiting.

Everything changed on the 8th November of that year. National took power, priorities changed, with more houses being removed. Conversations were had with the community, new plans were drawn up and then scrapped, promises were made and then broken, leaving parts of Marfell like a post apocalyptic wasteland.

Not only has this policy of neglect and abandonment of the community caused pain and loss for the families of Marfell, our wider New Plymouth community has also suffered. In Taranaki the number of applications for emergency housing and special needs grants more than doubled in the first quarter of 2017, compared with the last quarter in 2016. We have land and houses sitting vacant in Marfell. Yes I agree they need to be redeveloped and upgraded to suit the needs of today. But it’s not okay that 60 houses in Marfell have been either demolished, relocated or boarded up.

It saddens me to see politics without a heart, communities without people, HNZ without values and the National party sleeping warm and well at night, while families have no place to call home.

Norm Kirk sums it up for me and that’s why I believe in the values of the Labour Party movement, “All Kiwis want is someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work, and something to hope for.”

Glen Bennett

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