Schools could sell teacher houses to free up cash

by Robert Ballantyne28 Aug 2015

The proposal follows a pilot scheme aimed at selling up to 438 “non-core” properties owned by the Ministry of Education worth up to $160m.

“Non-core” properties are those located in areas with ample rental housing and teacher recruitment is not a problem.

However, documents released under the country’s Official Information Act have revealed officials want to include "core properties", which are often used to lure teachers to hard-to-staff areas, or to house principals and caretakers.

The joint proposal from the ministry and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) encouraged schools to consider the practical and financial benefits of selling the houses.

"We would also look to discuss Board-owned houses to determine if the school would like to dispose of these assets,” read the proposal.

“The purpose of this exercise is not to coerce Boards into releasing houses, but rather to inform them of holding costs and the value of the housing asset base under their ownership."

LINZ has managed the school properties since 2012 through its Crown Property Centre of Expertise (CPCoE). School boards would be told they could receive "up to 100 per cent of the net proceeds", the papers showed.

Until recently, schools have received 50% of the proceeds from sales, but in 2014 the New Zealand Government made changes to allow schools to keep all of the proceeds, provided they reinvested the money in school infrastructure.

The pilot project was about supporting schools needing more information about how to go about selling non-core houses.

In a statement, Associate Education Minister, Nikki Kaye, said that schools had always been able to sell surplus houses.

"Currently there are hundreds of non-core houses in New Zealand, and feedback from schools was that some are suffering from vandalism and deteriorating due to not being occupied," Kaye told Stuff.no.nz.

However, Labor education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, said: "It seems to me this is now 'go to launch' and is heading full speed towards the schools."

The education ministry's housing portfolio included about 1,800 properties worth an estimated $330m at an average value of $180,000.

Of those, about 1,200 were either caretaker houses or "core" properties transferred to school boards of trustees.

Officials estimated if $100m could be freed up for reinvestment in school infrastructure that would be the equivalent of seven new primary schools.

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