1 Aug 2013

Parties condemned for opposing housing bill

8:35 am on 1 August 2013

Housing Minister Nick Smith has condemned Opposition parties for opposing the Government's legislation to make more land available for residential developments.

Parliament's Social Services select committee has reported back on the bill and the Labour, Green and New Zealand First parties have written minority reports against the legislation.

Nick Smith.

Nick Smith. Photo: RNZ

Dr Smith said on Wednesday the Government is simply implementing policies recommended by the Productivity Commission in its report into housing and is disappointed that Opposition parties won't vote for the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill.

In their minority reports, the parties question whether the legislation will do anything to make housing more affordable and criticise the bill, which will give the Government the power to override local authorities, as undemocratic.

Labour says the revised bill doesn't require any of the homes built under fast-track planning rules to be truly affordable.

A housing and health research group also criticised the proposed social housing bill as being rushed and based on inadequate consultation.

The legislation would allow community groups to access subsidised tenancies and fund their own social housing.

Researchers from the University of Otago's He Kainga Oranga appeared before the select committee on Wednesday. Elinor Chisholm told MPs the bill would not address a shortfall of social housing and there was a high possibility of perverse and unintended consequences arising from it.

Her colleague, associate professor Michael Baker, said the proposed changes would shift costs from the social housing sector to health. He told MPs research suggests that social housing tenants are healthier than those renting in the private or community sector.

"When people move from being applicants to becoming tenants their hospitalisation rates drop by about 25%, so social housing is very good. But the benefits don't stop there, they continue for many years. So the longer you're living in social housing - the better your health becomes."

A Wellington Housing Trust director, Alison Cadman, told the committee there appears to have been no consultation with community groups. She said if the Government is serious about growing social housing it needs a long-term plan.

The legislation is due to be passed in August.