It’s a pity that JohnKey has already completed his cabinet reshuffle, as he seems to have missed a prime candidate for dropping due to idiocy. No, not Hekia Parata (well, yes, she seems to have been overlooked as well) but Jonny Bill English. It’s hard to believe that this man was once put forward as a candidate for Prime Minister – the same could be said about David Cunliffe of course – but English really hasn’t a clue about anything. Mr English gives the English a bad name…

Jonny-Bill is in the papers today saying “it is illegal to build a house for under half a million in Auckland”. It’s not just a stupid statement but it is factually wrong, and while the intent of the statement is understood (that it is actually almost impossible for a homeowner to get a home for under $500k in Aucklamd), it is yet another stupid statement from the Minister for Stupidity.

His previous mammoth stupid statement of note was when he was discussing how to get houses to be cheaper, and his reponse was that we couldn’t afford good design, and so we might just have to have ugly instead. As if Ugly comes cheaply and Design comes expensive. I’ve seen plenty of houses worth quite a bit in Aucklamd recently where it is obvious that ugly comes as standard, even with a high price bracket. English was a farmer before entering politics (I think, dairy?) and perhaps this level of intellect goes down well with the cows back in the milking shed, but we deserve better from our politicians.

We really can’t have people this ill-informed and this stupid running the country. Why on earth did New Zealand vote this bunch of idiots back in again? At least the fat woodwork teacher has been relieved of transport as a portfolio, but then it has been given to the gormless Simon Bridges, who knows about transport structures in surname only. Transport, our largest use of energy, our biggest cost in petrol and diesel, our largest use of fossil fuels, now in the hands of a child who doesn’t believe in climate change. Great. Just great.

Nick Smith, who somehow is a doctor having done a PhD in Engineering (some topic like stabilizing flood banks or the Clyde dam, I recall), is luckily removed from being the Minister of Conservation (which goes to the gardening correspondent, Maggie Barry, which sounds vaguely more appropriate), but instead he becomes the Minister of Building and Housing and Construction. Since Maurice “big gay rainbow” Williamson took a dive over Donghwa Liu, I think we have been rudderless in the ministerial world. Now we have Minister Smith, who allegedly is not as stupid as he looks, to be in charge of the Ministry of Housing.

First action of the Ministry, announced yesterday: Housing New Zealamd is to sell off their housing stock. It’s not a surprise, although the speed of it might be. Jonny-Bill had already sold off everything else owned by the Government last term, and so he needs to ideologically strip the country from governmental ownership of anything remaining. Remember that the doctrine of National is that the Market knows best, and that Government is inherently incompetent at doing anything itself. Certainly the Government seems intent on proving that it is incompetent, but expect a wave of selling of Housing Corp houses off to private owners, who will then do them up with a minimum of work, and flick them on for a profit. They’ll be offered for sale in seem cases to the original tenants, but it’s likely that in most cases the tenants won’t be able to afford the mortgage, and so they’ll be screwed again.

The logic then is that, like Britain, private sector providers will stand up to offer housing to the poor and dispossessed. At the moment this is limited to groups like the Salvation Army, although as a religious organisation I’m not sure they are the right model. How would we feel if Density Church, or fundamentalist Muslims set up housing associations? What Nick Smith wil be working towards will be smaller Housing Associations that buy land, develop new houses on it, rent it out at low market rates, and claim government subsidies to make it worthwhile. It is a system where the private sector gets to clip the ticket all the way through, thereby rewarding the property owning sector once again. They’ve had this system in Britain for decades, and sometimes it works well, with innovative housing systems and exciting new develepmemts on tiny bits of land. But sometimes too it all turned to custard – I lived next door to a Housing Association owned place in London once, and the HA had little or no control of the mentally unstable drunken inhabitants, much the same as NZHC has little control over the patched inhabitants of Farmers Crescent. I wish that we could actually learn from other countries mistakes, instead of just blindly copying them.

But we shall see. It may be that Minister Smith is more well informed than Minister English, and if so, I welcome the possibility that we will see a new Renaissance in public housing design. Pigs might fly of course, but there is a small chance for Smith to perform. Here’s hoping.

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