14 Apr 2021

Judith Collins proposes law requiring councils rezone land for housing immediately

8:29 am on 14 April 2021

National's leader Judith Collins is proposing a new law giving city councils powers to fast-track building more houses.

Judith Collins

National Party leader Judith Collins Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The Housing Emergency Response (Urgent Measures) Bill has been drafted and will go into the Member's Ballot this week.

However, Judith Collins will be writing to MPs to try and gather enough support for the bill to go straight on to the Order Paper, rather than into the Member's Ballot.

Collins said the draft legislation effectively puts into place similar powers that were used following the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.

The bill would require all urban councils to immediately zone more land for housing and the RMA appeals process would become more limited.

"The time has come for an extraordinary solution to this unfolding emergency. We need to short circuit the faltering RMA to get more houses built," Collins said.

Rural councils would not need to rezone but could utilise the new powers if they wished.

A $50,000 infrastructure grant would also be provided to local authorities for every new dwelling they consent above their five-year historical average.

National's Infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Bayly said this would act as a streamlined mechanism for allocating the government's $3.8 billion fund for housing infrastructure.

"This sensible move can be done right now to address the housing shortage and help first-home buyers," he said.

National's Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis said under the current law even if councils want to make more space available for housing they faced multiple handbrakes.

"The RMA ties them into a knot of consultation requirements and infrastructure costs loom as a heavy burden," she said.

"This bill gives councils permission - in fact it requires them - to say 'yes' to housing development and to get as much new housing built as they can as soon as is possible."

Collins told Morning Report: "I will be writing to every MP today in Parliament to ask for their support. So, it would immediately require councils to zone more land for housing, enough for at least 30 years of expected growth. It would give some certainty to people and developers and builders, but also to amend the RMA to create more streamlined process so council can establish these city plans rapidly.

"The other thing too is understanding that this is for a four-year term, this particular piece of legislation, to give a chance for the new RMA to come in and the other thing, too, is to understand that infrastructure is a real problem for councils and the costings of it.

"So for the next four years, councils would receive $50,000 payment for every house consented over and above their five-year historic average. That's some really big money.

"They have to actually deal with this housing situation we have got at the moment. We have got plenty of land... I think we all understand we need more housing built and this will actually incentivise councils, encourage them to have apartments."

As for where those $50,000 payments would come from, Collins said: "We are taking the $3.8 billion the government has announced for infrastructure, for housing ... that is the money we would be using. That, over a four-year term, would help consent 75,000 houses."

National believed "very firmly" that the market would respond in terms of ramping up the residential building sector. That would include bringing in overseas builders if necessary and looking at fast tracking building by constructing houses in factories, Collins said.

"We understand that there is a temporary issue around supply in the building materials market but that can also be addressed if we ship in the material that we need."

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