21 May 2015

'Thousands' of houses on ex-Crown land

7:38 am on 21 May 2015

Plans to develop public land in Auckland for housing will pave the way for thousands of new homes, the Building and Housing Minister says.

The Government has identified several hundred hectares of Crown land that could be used to help ease the housing crisis.

Nick Smith during caucas run 5/5/15

Nick Smith (file) Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The minister Nick Smith was forced to confirm the plan - expected to be unveiled in this afternoon's Budget - after the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment placed a work tender on its website.

Dr Smith said the 430 hectares of vacant land was controlled by agencies such as defence, education and transport and is in areas zoned for residential use.

"The land that we are looking at in Auckland is principally not reserves, just land that is sitting in departments that may at one stage have been intended to be used for public purposes but hasn't," he said.

Dr Smith told Morning Report it was too early to be any more specific about the number of homes, but it was in the thousands.

He said the government would buy the land from whichever agency owned it and recoup the costs after it had been developed.

Partnerships to build houses

The Government is likely to partner with private companies to build the houses.

Official documents said this would minimise the risk to the Crown, and to developers, who would not have to pay for the land up front, but would pay the Government once the houses were sold.

Dr Smith said this had been done before.

"A good example would be with the land that we are using at Weymouth in South Auckland for the substantive housing development there.

"That land stood vacant, firstly owned by the Ministry of Education, then by the Ministry of Social Development for over 20 years, during which period there was high housing need in South Auckland and frankly Government agencies should have got into action much earlier."

Higher density and townhouse developments are part of Housing New Zealand's new Auckland focus

The Government would partner with private firms to build houses. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the plan was a no brainer that should have been done years ago.

He said the last Labour Government started doing that work in 2008, but National shut it down when it got into office.

"The National Government is panicking about the Auckland housing crisis and they've sat on their hands for seven years while this land has been sitting there."

Mr Twyford said the land should not be made available to developers at a discounted rate.

Auckland property developer Mark Todd said he would be interested in the project if the land was in urban areas.

The Government has invited developers to a launch of the programme on 29 May.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs