5 Oct 2020

National outlines plan for housing affordability and rent-to-own scheme

5:34 pm on 5 October 2020

National says if elected it will pass emergency legislation similar to what was used for the Christchurch rebuild to get more houses built and alleviate rising prices.

Houses as seen from Mount Eden summit in Auckland, New Zealand.

Photo: Unsplash / Nick Sarvari

The emergency legislation would be passed within 100 days to amend the Resource Management Act (RMA) and require councils to permit more housing. It would repeal the RMA in its first term and replace it with new legislation that allows more houses to be built at a faster pace

Those measures are part of the party's new housing policy, which it says will "help New Zealanders secure their financial future" by allowing "more renters and social housing tenants to get a foot on the property ladder".

It says it would get more state houses built by putting aside $1 billion from Kāinga Ora's borrowing facility for community housing providers to access.

It will also allow social housing tenants to buy homes through rent-to-own or shared equity schemes.

In addition, it would introduce measures like a "remind, remedy, remove" three strikes system for anti-social behaviour in social housing, and strategies to address methamphetamine use particularly when children are involved.

Party leader Judith Collins says "home ownership is an important part of our social fabric. It helps give people financial security, helps families build roots in their communities and gives parents a valuable asset to pass on to their children".

The emergency legislation would require all councils to immediately open up 30 years of growth for urban development and establish a fast-tracked consenting process.

National housing spokesperson Jacqui Dean says the emergency legislation will "improve housing affordability. It will mean your children will have the same opportunity you had to purchase their own home to raise their own families".

Collins says the long-term solution to getting more houses built is repealing the RMA and replacing it with an Environmental Standards Act and a Planning and Development Act.

The party says its housing policy has been costed at $480 million over five years.

Greens not impressed

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says it is the "same old, same old" from National.

"One of the reasons why we have such horrendous infrastructure problems here in Aotearoa New Zealand is because successive governments - but particularly the National Party - have punted for sprawl rather than for densification."

The Greens also have plans for the RMA - based a report by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC - which Shaw says will speed up the planning process as well as ensure environmental safeguards.

Shaw says National's plans are just electioneering.

"If you just sprawl like we have sprawled you will continue to use up productive farmland and you will continue to increase congestion in our main cities, you will continue to have an infrastructure problem in all of your main utilities."

He says Labour and the Greens have started to "turn around" problems with housing in New Zealand.

"But in the nature of any crisis, there isn't any one single large level to pull to unwind it otherwise someone would have pulled it already. There's a lot of different things you have to do and we are intending to do them."

Labour says RMA work, consent fast-tracking already happening

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says her party already has work on the RMA and has already fast-tracked consenting as part of its Covid-19 recovery - and is seeing how it can speed up consenting for Kāinga Ora.

"Our intent with RMA reform [is] to make it simpler, to make less costly, but also to make sure it has the environmental protections that the community expects. So we are doing that work and at the same time, already, inroads through fast-tracking consenting.

As for National's proposed three strikes plan, Ardern says: "It is fair to say of course that state housing, this is often the last opportunity for housing and so we have to be mindful of that ... at the same time, no one wants a negative effect for those living around an individual where there have been issues, so our view is that has to be worked through and managed well.

"One of the things that we lost from the last government was often in state housing developments of large scale we often had support networks within that community ... that's the way to deal with those social issues."

In a written statement, Labour's housing spokesperson Megan Woods says National's "reckless and irresponsible" plan will take more than $1 billion away from state house building at a time when more state houses are crucially needed.

"Commitments to sell off state houses, remove restrictions on property speculation, and roll back protections for tenants show what's at stake this election," she said.

"The only real winners from National's announcement today appear to be property speculators, with a commitment from National to spend $480 million rolling back the bright line test and ring-fencing of rental losses."

She says that will put more pressure on house prices and push home ownership further out of reach for many New Zealanders.

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