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Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Those evil town planners

Posted by on January 31st, 2014

Those town planners, they sure are evil. A little while back the Finance Minister was saying 20 town planners were a threat to macro-economic stability.  Now he says they are causing inequality.

This week at the Finance and Expenditure Committee, he was trying to fend off David Parker’s assertion that a falling home ownership rate was causing a widening wealth gap between those who own and those who rent.

I actually think that in the housing market the biggest generator of inequality are planning rules what deliberately drive out low and middle income housing and deliberately drive up the prices of housing so we can have nice looking apartment blocks in the so-called ‘liveable city’, not those messy low and middle income people. It is very unfair and it is locking a whole lot of people out of the housing market or pushing them into part of the market to make access to work and education difficult and we need to change that

This is a great example of diverting and distracting when you are in a tight spot. While it is true that planning rules do need to be reformed to encourage more and better urban development, Bill English’s demonisation of town planners is hilariously misplaced for the following reasons:

1.  Home ownership rates are falling, down to 65% according to the census, and 61% in Auckland.  Rampant house price inflation, and now the LVR lendng limits have shut a generation of first home buyers out of the market. Increasingly there are two classes: those who own property and make windfall capital gains, and those who pay rent and slip further behind.

2. The Member for Dipton seems to be saying the “liveable” or compact city stops affordable housing being built in order to provide apartment blocks for the well-off. This is confused to say the least.  If his answer is to deregulate urban planning so low income people can buy cheap houses an hour’s drive from where the jobs are then he is seriously mistaken about the economics of sprawl. It adds huge travelling costs to residents,  and huge infrastructure costs to the ratepayer and taxpayer. In fact, good quality medium density housing near train stations and town centres offers the best options for affordable housing.

3.  Auckland is a property speculator’s paradise. Yet Bill English refuses to consider a Capital Gains Tax that would take the steam out of those speculative pressures, or restrictions on offshore speculators who outbid Kiwi first home buyers.

4. Not only does National’s fixation on deregulating planning ignore the costs of rampant property speculation, it fails to tackle chronic low productivity in the construction industry, lack of competition in the market for building materials, and the fact that the new Auckland Unitary Plan will bring ample greenfields land into the market.

5. The big driver of inequality is the failure of National to rein in out of control house prices. They’ve been in Government for five years and it wasnt until the fourth year they started to do something, and that pretty much just amounted to tinkering with planning rules.

Economy : How can we convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work? Labour Leadership Q&A #9

Posted by on September 12th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 9

Economy : How will you convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work?

Question : How can we get the voting public to believe that the present economic thinking has failed? And that Labour’s ideas will work for them?

Submitted by : Angie Croft, Christchurch


Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog. This started Tuesday 10th September, and continues till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.



Answer from Grant Robertson

We have to relate our economic vision to the reality of everyday lives.

This means an economy where people come before money. Where the centerpiece is full employment- decent jobs paying decent wages.

We need to talk about Labour using the power of government to help create a productive economy, not one like National’s that is based on speculation and selling off assets.

To create this economy we cannot tinker at the edges. We have to leave behind the neo liberal agenda and create a Labour way. This means changing the settings of monetary policy, giving Kiwi firms a fair go at government contracts, lifting wages, reducing power prices, building affordable homes and investing in industry and regional development.

The message from Labour must be, the economy will work for all New Zealanders not just John Key’s mates.


Answer from David Cunliffe

We need to be clear that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) blew the lid off the myth that trickle-down economics will create a fairer, more prosperous New Zealand.

Free markets left to their own devices are ultimately destructive of human well-being. Unregulated markets tend towards monopolies and often concentrate vast wealth in the hands of a few. Neither outcome is sustainable or morally right.

When National says they are going to cut people’s legs off, Kiwis don’t want to hear that Labour will too, just nearer the ankles and with more anaesthetic. The post-GFC modern social democratic alternative must include:

• using the power of the state to intervene when markets fail;

• guaranteeing fair workplaces and decent wages through employment laws, including industry standard agreements;

• lifting the minimum wage to $15 and rolling out a living wage as fast as can be afforded;

• building new partnerships between communities, regions, industries and an empowering and investing State; and

• revised marco-economic settings that do not solely focus on inflation but include growth, employment, and our external balance.

New Zealand desperately needs change.

The next Labour Government mustn’t be more of the same.

I am offering Labour a bold economic agenda and leadership with the vision and economic credibility to see it through.


Answer from Shane Jones

Our ideas are exciting. We will use both the market and the State.

I am convinced that our tax system can be refined to incentivise and expedite fresh investment.

Industry will be actively supported, regional development will be promoted and in special cases underwritten.

Our mix of economic stewardship and equity is desperately needed throughout NZ.

I have the experience and the communication skills to sell this narrative.


The appearance of activity

Posted by on February 27th, 2013

Five weeks ago John Key appointed Paula Bennett as Associate Housing Minister, putting her alongside Nick Smith and Tariana Turia in a housing team to emphasise National’s commitment to tackling the crisis of unaffordable housing.

Problem is Ms Bennett still has no responsibilities – “to be advised” – according to the Government website. She doesn’t even have ‘general duties in the portfolio’ as others have.

She has no housing staff in her office and has been unable to answer written questions about her priorities. In fact a written question about her goals as Associate Minister of Housing was referred to Housing Minister Nick Smith’s office and then back to Bennett, and then back to Smith again.

Smith claimed in a written answer he has “formal and informal” meetings with Bennett on housing issues. It’s hard to imagine these will be much use if Bennett doesn’t know what she is doing!

National’s response to the housing affordablity crisis is all about creating the appearance of activity: a three member housing team, blaming Councils, threatening to tinker with the RMA.  Meanwhile with Kiwibuild, Labour has a robust, achievable plan that will get 100,000 Kiwi families into their own homes over the next 10 years.


It’s not a problem, it’s a crisis

Posted by on February 22nd, 2012

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. (more…)

The Govt needs to address the hardship that is occurring…here’s a couple of examples

Posted by on July 27th, 2010

When the PM takes to his feet in the house, you can pretty much guarantee that he’ll have a punchline or two up his sleeve…someone needs to tell him that sarcasm really is the lowest form of wit.  Given that we are faced with increasing numbers of hardship stories – its difficult to stomach his humour. 

Last night myself, Chris Carter and David Cunliffe hosted a public meeting on housing concerns.  The decision to hold it on this issue, was due to the number of heart wrenching housing stories that us MPs are experiencing escalating numbers of.  I thought I’d blog about a couple.  The scary thing is that the two cases I discuss below, are becoming more and more common.  I’ve changed the names etc.

Case 1.
Sarah came to see me today regarding her housing situation. Sarah and her husband currently live in a private rental, paying $415 a week. The house leaks regularly and is not a healthy home for her children. She has just had her sixth child two weeks ago.

Sarah advised that she applied for a Housing New Zealand property, and went through the interview process and was waiting on a confirmation letter. Instead she received a letter saying HNZ were closing her case due to documents not being provided.

Sarah was adamant that she provided them, and went to the HNZ branch where she lodged them. She said she spoke to the person who she gave the documents to, and she apologised and found the forms, and discovered they hadnt been lodged. Sarah said she requested she speak to the Manager as she was very disappointed that this had happened. She was told the Manager was unavailable. The person behind the counter then went to speak to another advisor, who advised she needed to re-apply and go through the whole process again.

Sarah has advised that she has done this, and complied with everything that has been asked of her (as she did last time). She says she has been asked however to provide another letter from her Doctor regarding her son’s condition, which will cost her to go and get again, and she has already provided all the medical information that was asked for.

She says she was also asked to provide her passport and driver license, however this was all stolen from her car. Sarah advised she has given a police report to support this. Sarah advised that she has previously provided copies of her passport and license to HNZ, so this should already be on file.

This process has taken twice as long as it should have, through no fault of her own. This is causing considerable stress for Sarah, when she is still recovering and caring for a newborn.

Sarah is doing everything she can to help her family through this difficult time, including receiving budgeting advice, but their current situation is unhealthy and unsustainable.

Case 2.
Ana came in to see me last week regarding her housing situation. She is currently living in her sister’s two bedroom HNZ property, with herself and her four children sharing one small room. She has twin babies (four months old), a three year old and a six year old.

Ana advised she was living in a private rental, but due to the house being very cold she moved in with her sister. Her twins were born prematurely at 28 weeks and have specific health requirements. Ana advised she has given copies of the medical records that reflect this.

She advised she has been on the HNZ waiting list since November of last year, and that she had been working and is now on maternity leave. However, she has had to take extended maternity leave without pay until October, to care for the babies. She has recently applied for the DPB over this period, and said she is unable to meet market rent costs.

State House tenants need not apply

Posted by on December 14th, 2009


This is the front page of a swishy new publication from the Hobsonville Land Company (which is a wholly owned subsidary of Housing New Zealand) which was being distributed at a housing conference last week (obviously the by-line is my own addition).

The Hobsonville site is situated in the upper Waitemata harbour and covers 167 hectares and presents a rare opportunity for green fields urban development.  Here is a real chance to build a mixed community – private, affordable, and state housing as well as all the amenities, public transport links, and business development to provide local jobs.  By ‘pepper-potting’ state houses throughout, we achieve better outcomes for the entire community, and avoid the situation we have in many parts of New Zealand where entire neighbourhoods of state houses were built in the past.

Labour started this work, and our approach was to include 15% state and 15% affordable housing. Thats about 500 of each in a develpoment of 3000 homes.  National has decided there will be no state housing built at Hobsonville because it’s in the Prime Minister’s electorate and he says that locals dont want state house tenants in their neck of the woods. He also says that inclusion of state houses at Hobsonville would be “economic vandalism”.

John Key has milked his state house upbringing for all its worth, yet he is now denying 500 more Auckland families that same opportunity.  Seem contradictory? Not really. I’ve long thought that whereas Labour believes John Key did well because he grew up in a state house,  he believes he did well despite growing up in a state house.

What a wasted opportunity.

Gizza house*

Posted by on November 2nd, 2009

We have a housing affordability crisis in this country. Close to one in three New Zealanders are in strife – spending 30% or more of their disposable income on housing. The 30% is an internationally agreed benchmark for housing affordability. Pay any more than that, if you are on a low income, and you’re likely to be in trouble.

The numbers of New Zealanders paying more than 30% have been high for years. But they just got higher. To record levels.

Housing costs this high can mean there just isn’t enough left over at the end of the week for food, clothing, transport, medical care or all the other expenses of raising a family.

If you’re heavily mortgaged it can mean your family is one job loss away from a mortgagee sale.

Our houses are amongst the most expensive in the OECD in relation to incomes. It is driving more and more Kiwi families into poverty. And it is a major driver of income inequality.

We all know house prices have gone up. But according to a paper produced last year by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet they have gone up a whopping 80% since 2002.

If you got into the market in the 70s or 80s you might be sitting pretty. Skyrocketing prices have effectively transferred huge amounts of wealth to home owners through capital gain. Net wealth per capita doubled between 1980 and 2001. And doubled again 2001-6 as a result of the housing bubble.

But for the growing number of Kiwis who cannot afford to get into the market that dream of home ownership is disappearing into the distance. A big wealth gap has opened up between homeowners and renters. It is yet another way that the babyboomers have grabbed the best cuts, leaving Generations X and Y to fight over the scraps. By 2006 only 29% of renting couples and 2% of renting individuals could afford to buy a cheap house in their region (spending 30% of income on mortgage payments).

Scarily, the long term trend is heading in the wrong direction.  In 1988 only 11% were spending 30% or more of their income on housing. By 1997 it was up to 25%. It dropped 2001-4 but has been rising rapidly since and is now up to 29%. The recession is bound to have slowed the trend with house prices stabilising but there are already signs the market is picking up again.

According to the 2009 Social Report lower income families have been particularly hard hit by the increases. The proportion of households in the lowest 20% of income spending more than the benchmark 30% on housing trebled between 1988 and 1994 (rising from 16% to 48%). It dipped and then levelled off for a while but has been rising steeply for the past couple of years, going from 33% in 2007 to 39% in 2008.

That increase in the last couple of years ate up much of the benefit from Working for Families tax credits. And without doubt is a big factor behind the rise in poverty levels in 2008.

As you’d expect, rates of home ownership are now plummeting too. Owning a home has been one of the main factors keeping older people’s heads above water financially. As things stand Gen X and Y won’t have mortgage-free homes to get them through their twilight years. Add that to the question mark over superannuation caused by National’s suspension of pre-funding and it is not a pretty picture.

Something has to be done.

* Borrowed from “Gizza job, I can do that” the immortal line of Yosser Hughes a character in Alan Bleasdale’s 1980s TV drama The Boys from the Blackstuff.

Vultures circling

Posted by on August 5th, 2009

I’ve been around the place for a while now and seen plenty of MPs in real trouble. The signs are different. The current nact backbench seem to want to clap every time a weak Minister gives a silly answer.

Bill English gave his answers yesterday to a very very quiet house. Everyone knows something serious is going down but no one is sure where it is going to end up.

What was really fascinating was watching National backbenchers greasing up to Steven Joyce during the Road User Charges legislation after question time.  Peachy and Woodhouse in particular.

Joyce is Key’s confidant. He is the one Key goes out into the lobbies to have a discussion with most often. He clearly has talent.

There is a power shift happening in the government and it is interesting to watch national members scramble to be part of it.

I’m not so sure that two rich white men from Auckland is quite the combination the punters are looking for.  We will see.