7 Dec 2016

Proposed Auckland housing crisis body scrapped

5:47 am on 7 December 2016

A property specialist has abandoned plans to create a multi-sector group to solve Auckland's housing crisis, after the government and Auckland Council failed to sign up.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The idea was put forward by Leonie Freeman, who has held senior roles in the private and public sector, and personally funded research in a philanthropic initiative which she hoped would bring all the main parties together.

Ms Freeman said she had solid backing from many in the housing sector following the launch of the initiative in October, but the government had signalled it was already doing enough, and the council wasn't interested.

She said while she was disappointed the idea wouldn't be pursued, she was more worried that neither the government nor council had plans that would ensure enough affordable homes would be built in Auckland.

"I'm just so concerned for Auckland, because this problem is only going to worsen," said Ms Freeman.

"It's really important Aucklanders focus on this, and say we need to speak up and start talking to our councillors and MPs, and demand a comprehensive solution."

"If we don't have targets and a plan and don't measure how we're going, we're never going to get there, and we don't have any of that in place currently."

Auckland is currently an estimated 40,000 homes short, and the building rate is a little over half the estimated 13,000 new homes needed each year for three decades.

Ms Freeman is on the board of listed property developer Goodman Property and had been the general manager of assets for Housing New Zealand.

She had proposed creating an independent entity that would set firm targets for home construction, and tackle all of the issues that might get in the way of those being achieved.

But by last week's deadline for potential players to signal their interest, there'd been no formal word from the council or government - both of whom she had briefed and discussed the idea with.

Phil Goff announcing Bill Cashmore as Deputy Mayor

Phil Goff said the government had the main role to play in solving the housing crisis. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

"I've been indirectly told the council has decided not to support the initiative, reflecting the position of the mayor," she said.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the council was taking a multi-sector approach with homelessness, but on the wider housing market it was not "Auckland's crisis".

"The council has played its role already, it's passed the Unitary Plan," said Mr Goff - referring to the new development blueprint that provides much higher housing density across much of the city.

He said the government had the main role.

"The key levers for addressing the housing crisis - such as the provision of social housing, the creation of affordable housing, how much funding is available - come from central government, which is the only party that can mobilise the effort here," said Mr Goff.

Ms Freeman said the government had been similarly cool.

"I've been indirectly informed that government doesn't believe there's a need for further co-ordinated leadership in housing, and believe the work they are doing on increasing land supply and infrastructure provision, will be sufficient to solve the crisis."

Minister of Building and Housing Nick Smith said he hadn't had time to look at the proposal, due to the demands of the Kaikōura earthquake.

Dr Smith said the government had its own comprehensive programme.

"The new Unitary Plan, the record number of houses being built by government agencies like Housing New Zealand and Tamaki Redevelopment, I'm always open to new ideas, but I can't rule it in or out," he said.

Ms Freeman said she had canvassed the plan with officials and politicians at both levels of government, and there been a clear date to respond.

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