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Housing sell-off faces protests

Published: 6:21PM Saturday May 18, 2002

The sale of city council housing built for the needy in order to pay off debt has sparked passionate protests in Auckland.

The first batch of properties to go on sale under mayor John Banks - in the inner city suburb of Freeman's Bay - were opened for inspection this weekend, but house hunters got more than they bargained for, with protesters remonstrating with them outside the open homes.

The protesters argue that the flats are public property and are not for sale, but not everyone agrees.

"At the end of the day somebody wants to sell the property and there will always be buyers," says one woman interested in the property.

"But the council has not got a mandate from the majority of people in this city to do so," argues a protester in response.

Auckland City evidently does not want to be a landlord, and plans to sell 130 council houses and over 1500 units, including pensioner flats.

This weekend tenders were sought for 13 units, and deputy mayor David Hay quickly sought to defend the sell-off.

"Well, first of all we should clarify they are not pensioner units. They are just general housing, and they are all vacant."

Other council tenants still living in the complex have all been given notice - how soon they have to vacate depends on how long they have lived there.

"Well it is is quite stressful," says one of the tenants affected by the sale, Chris McBride. "I have got a daughter who is at Freeman's Bay School and I want her to be able to stay there."

In the face of intense public pressure the council has guaranteed accommodation for it's pensioner tenants, as David Hay says.

"We have guaranteed them tenure for life," Hay claims.

Councillors critical of the plan believe it is aimed at reserving inner-city living for the wealthy.

"The council really favours gentrification of the inner city," says councillor Bruce Hucker.

"What the council is doing with it's sale of pensioner units is saying 'We don't really care about what happens to people who want affordale housing'."

More units will soon go on sale - but only a limited number, the council mindful of not flooding the sensitive Auckland property market.

© ONE News

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