Yesterday Phil Twyford and I spent the day meeting with key people involved in housing and urban development in Auckland. I recommend Phil Heatley the Minister of ‘no Housing ‘ does the same. He might learn something.
Auckland needs to house another million people over the next 30 years requiring an extra 400,000 dwellings. That is an impossible task without a long term strategy and total commitment from government, local government and both the private and community sectors.
The Auckland Council has drawn up a draft Auckland Plan looking forward 30 years. It emphasises a commitment to a quality compact Auckland region. Feedback from Aucklanders has made it clear they want a bold visionary strategy. They also want the impact of development on the heritage and character of the region to be considered. And they want the ‘housing crisis’ addressed!
Auckland Council with all the good will in the world won’t achieve their plan on their own. Around 13,000 new houses a year need to be built every year for the next 30 years. That is a quantum leap from where we are now. In 1992 around 4,800 houses were being built a year. The number peaked at 12,000 between 2001 and 2005. In the latest figures the number has plunged to just over 2,000.
With this crisis already on us where is the National government’s long term plan? To date the only response has been to duck for cover and push responsibility on to anyone and everyone. Meanwhile Housing New Zealand has increasingly become nothing more than an uninterested landlord.
A different response is vital if we are to get out of the hole Auckland is fast sinking in to. It requires a multi-pronged strategy. Doing what has been done in the last 20 years won’t work. Quality affordable housing for rental, public and private, as well as homeownership for the modest income earner must be part of the equation. But where is the leadership from John Key’s Ministers?
The Government holds many of the levers needed right now. First, they need to get alongside the Council and other players to reach an agreed plan. If they have no ideas of their own use the draft Auckland Plan as a starting point. At least the Council recognises the crisis and have started consulting on it.
Identification of forward supply of land needs to occur now so zoning and the cost of holding the land can be worked through. Appropriate services including transport and amenities have to be planned for in advance. Local government is underway with this process but Government has been more interested in closing down affordable housing opportunities. How about Hobsonville Mr Key?
Finance for housing is a major hurdle as well. It’s time for some innovative thinking by Government as to how they could better use their borrowing power to kick start development. I’m told the market cannot produce homes below $300,000 in Auckland. If that is the case government has to consider the part it will play to get sufficient affordable houses built.
I met with a representative of a major bank recently who set out their ideas to improve access to housing finance particularly in Auckland. They want to work with political parties to see what can be done to address the crisis. Of course they are not benevolent organisations but at least they recognise something has to be done. I suspect there will be little interest from the Government.
A recurring theme yesterday was the cost of building houses in New Zealand. Costs are too high, according to those we met. Why are they so high? With so many natural home grown products available it should give New Zealand a cost advantage. If we better understood what drives those costs, with our ability to innovate and reach unique solutions to problems, we might come up with new ways of working. Perhaps it’s time for an inquiry into the cost of building houses in New Zealand.
We hear a lot about ‘economic transformation’ from John Key and Bill English. It’s hard to believe they can’t see Auckland’s housing crisis will be a barrier to that transformation.