27 Jan 2021

Housing: Judith Collins says free up land and bring in more tradespeople

9:12 am on 27 January 2021

New Zealand faces the risk of a generation being locked out of the housing market unless land is freed up and more houses built, National Party leader Judith Collins says.

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Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Collins has written to the prime minister calling for a special select committee to develop legislation giving the government the power to re-zone council land for development.

Collins said the cost of land had to be brought down by faster re-zoning and being able to get consenting done, and criticised government policy requiring councils to free up land saying "a stocktake is not something you can live in".

She told Morning Report the government also needed to allow more tradespeople in to the country to help build housing.

"It's very clear when we've got the state house waiting list having increased by four times in the last three years, when we've got rents now $100 a week more on average than they were three years ago, house prices continuing to rise and not sufficient houses built, that we do need to free up land and get houses built."

"Infrastructure also needs help. We can't just continue to add more stock into the infrastructure that's already fraying, we're seeing that in Wellington at the moment and we're also seeing that in Auckland.

"We need to building infrastructure and we need to assist councils to get that done."

She did not support extending the bright-line property rule from five to 10 years, and said debt-to-income ratios, as suggested by the Reserve Bank, were not the point.

"This is what we're most uncomfortable with at the moment with the Reserve Bank measures, is that we're not seeing the banks themselves - when the Reserve Bank obviously has its own role in relation to the trading banks - we're not seeing them lending to developers to get housing built.

"What we're seeing them doing is taking the easy option of just lending on existing houses, and that's what we would like to have a conversation about."

It would be pointless to put restrictions on the number of houses people can own "if you're asking people to be private landlords and to provide most of the rental housing in the country", Collins said.

"It's their money, and I believe in property rights ... but I also know that most people who have more than one or two houses are renting out those houses and therefore providing accommodation for other people."

Prices would drop once there were more houses built than people wanted to buy, she said. "It is all about supply and demand. There is nothing magical about this - we need more houses and more accommodation."

Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern mapped out a timeline for when the public can expect new announcements from the government on housing.

By late February, Finance Minister Grant Robertson would announce initiatives to cool the property market and "tilt the balance toward first homebuyers", she said.

High-level announcements would be made about the Resource Management Act, with draft legislation outlining major reform released in May, and the May Budget would also contain further measures.

Asked whether that meant more funding for state housing, Ardern said: "There will be a specific focus in the Budget around supply-side issues".

Local councils would also have to free up new land for housing in July, as required by the National Policy Statement on Urban Development.