Housing Minister Megan Woods won’t rule out cuts to improving state housing for people with disabilities. Photo/Mark Mitchell
The Greens want the government to rule out cutting a scheme that makes public residences accessible to people with disabilities in a bid to save money.
A leaked document from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development warned that public housing agency Kāinga Ora’s borrowing was becoming unsustainable.
The document suggested suspending heating upgrade programs and scrapping “accessibility upgrades” from Kāinga Ora’s renovation program as a way to save money, as well as moving out of expensive remote locations. .
Green Party disability spokeswoman Jan Logie urged Housing Minister Megan Woods to rule out accepting the recommendation.
“It is absolutely essential that the government stop sacrificing disability rights for tax gain,” Logie said.
“We think the goal should be for all of our homes to be accessible. Twenty-five percent of the population has a disability. We could all have an accident where we can’t climb the steps, or need more space,” Logie said.
Currently, it is estimated that only 2% of homes are accessible. People living in public housing can apply for improvements to make their housing accessible. Kāinga Ora aims to have at least 15% of its new home constructions accessible to people with disabilities.
Logie said she’s heard of people with disabilities having to “shower at work or shower on their porch or wait an incredibly long time to find accessible public accommodation that’s right for them.”
Housing Minister Megan Woods has been asked if she would rule out changes to the disability renovation scheme.
She did not respond to that question, but a spokeswoman said no decision has yet been made and Woods has sought further guidance from officials.
National’s Housing spokesman Chris Bishop said the imbroglio showed why the government could make better use of community housing providers, non-governmental organizations that provide housing with government funding.
“That’s yet another argument for using the community housing sector, which has the will and the skills to build social housing,” Bishop said.
“What they need is a government that is not ideologically obsessed with Kāinga Ora being the provider of new social housing.”
The leaked document warned that the agency’s financial situation was deteriorating, largely due to skyrocketing construction costs, which are not being matched by increased revenue.
To illustrate the point, officials presented a cost comparison of Kāinga Ora’s construction program using its latest 2022 economic model with costs using its “previous benchmark” from the 2018 pre-inflation peak.
Using 2018 economic assumptions, the average interest cost per year for each additional public housing would be $14,457. The revised 2022 model used by Kāinga Ora has the average interest cost of a new location at $29,339.
Using the 2018 assumptions, Kāinga Ora’s interest costs would be $571 million in 2025/26 – instead, the most recent assumption projects these costs to be $842 million.
Kāinga Ora’s debt is now expected to peak in 2033 at $28.9 billion – the previous benchmark had a much lower debt peak at $20.9 billion.
Ministry officials warned that they were “concerned about Kanga Ora’s financial performance over the next four years and will consider options regarding Kāinga Ora’s funding”.
This review could involve the government making direct cash investments in Kāinga Ora.