Having grown up in Britain, I can remember one of the most successful of the policies of Margaret Hilda Thatcher.
It was privatisation and giving council house tenants the right to buy their homes was a central tenet of it.
As Not PC recalls, several million such homes were sold and its impact on British society was most significant.
Naturally, the councils benefited from the proceeds but there was something far better.
When you own something yourself, you treat it differently, you treat it better.
I remember canvassing around the 'council estates' of Coventry South-West for the 1987 General Election.
You could always tell a former council house.
There were new double-glazed windows, a shiny new door and the property was kept in a far better state than others that had not being bought.
There was a political change too. So grateful were the new owners of these homes to enjoy the 'right to buy' that they voted Conservative. At the time Labour opposed the right to buy and I think eventually it had to change its mind.
As Peter Creswell notes, Thatcher created a property owning democracy, with the number of homeowners rockering from around half of the population to nearly 70%.
Of course, it helped that such homes were sold at a discount, and this discount varied for how long the occupant had resided in the home. Thus, you could argue that the tenants had paid for a fair bit of the house anyway.
Of course, there will be purists, such as Cactus Kate who points out an unfairness in government giving such discounts.
But to encourage such a disposal of state housing and for New Zealand to accrue the benefits from such a wider property owning democracy, I would say the discounts are welcome.
National also needs to sell the message that Liarbour opposes such sales and wants to see state house tenants dependent on the state. The message is Liarbour opposes freedom of choice and homeownership. National wants to see, as David Farrar says, a switch from dependency to ownership.
As for putting the proceeds into a pot to build some more state houses, I agree. It is better to see the revenues used to pay off government debt. But alas the pragmatism of the times calls for a measure like this, thus maintaining the levels of state housing provision.
Of course, what National fails to stress is that once someone has bought their state house, they no longer heed one. I cannot see what Moana Mackay is moaning about!
Perhaps National might have been better sharing the proceeds 50-50 between new state house provision and paying off the National debt. That way it could get the best of both worlds and satisfy both camps!
Hat tip: Not PC, Cactus Kate, Kiwiblog
UPDATE: ConservativeHome blog updates the debate over the British experience.