John Key says no Auckland housing crisis, but 76 per cent of voters want more action
Prime Minister John Key has acknowledged the Government must tackle growing housing problems in New Zealand's biggest city, as three-quarters of Kiwis say not enough is being done.
Labour says more must be done to help people living in cars or locked out of the housing market, while Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has bucked the party line by referring to the situation in Auckland as a "crisis".
The Government is coming under increasing pressure to tackle rising homelessness and a shortage of housing in Auckland, as it prepares for Thursday's Budget.
A Newshub/Reid Research poll found that 76 per cent of Kiwis felt the Government was not doing enough to control the housing market, while only 20 per cent thought it had housing under control.
* Auckland mother shares housing woes as Green Party pushes for more state houses
* Housing for homeless not guaranteed - Bennett
* Govt announces $41.1 million boost for emergency housing
* Homeless in motels with emergency funding not released
* Government announces over 500 new social housing properties in Auckland
* Wellington Night Shelter needs $30k ratepayer bailout
Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell has called for a large-scale house-building programme from the Government, saying its current plans are not working.
Key said the Government was aware that the housing problems needed to be tackled.
However, he shied away from using the word "crisis", saying it was "for others to use whatever words that they want to use".
"The opposition parties always use emotive terms like that - I think what's much more helpful is to say, what are the steps that need to be taken and are being taken?"
Initiatives such as a funding boost for emergency housing and housing developments on Crown land were "all quite practical examples of where we're responding to the issues", Key said.
However, suggesting the Government needed to build more houses was a "misplaced" idea.
"We've long since given up doing that - the Ministry of Works used to be the provider of roads and schools and houses in New Zealand and it wasn't a very successful model."
'THE GOVERNMENT MUST LEAD THE WAY'
Labour leader Andrew Little backed Campbell's call for a government building programme "because that's our policy".
Labour has pledged to build 10,000 houses a year for 10 years that would be on-sold to private buyers.
Little said 40,000 houses were needed in Auckland, people were homeless and those prospective first home buyers could not get into houses.
"We are at a point now where the Government must lead the way with a house building programme...and focus on affordable housing and additional social housing."
'YOU INVENT PROMISES'
Housing Minister Nick Smith denied the Government's initiative to help develop houses on surplus Crown land from the last Budget was a failure, despite slow progress to date.
"Last year I made plain, the key word that the media keeps overlooking is potential...you invent promises.
"There's not a single site I took you to last year that will not have houses being built on [it]."
There was an "unrealistic expectation" about the amount of time it took to build houses on the sites, while there had been a "boom" in Auckland's overall housing market.
"My challenge to you, find me a period in which there has been faster growth in home construction than over the last three years I've been minister."
The Government would make an announcement next week about a national policy statement to increase land supply around the country, Smith said.
MORE STATE HOUSES BEING BUILT - BENNETT
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said over 900 new homes were being built by Housing New Zealand, on top of the $41 million that had gone towards emergency housing.
Bennett said while the issue of homelessness was not new, it had "certainly" become more acute in the last two years, with the biggest rise coming in Auckland.
"A big part of [the reason] would be supply: if there's pressure at the top, there's pressure in the middle, and it's those that are most vulnerable that feel it the most."
The Government had been working to increase the social housing supply for some time, she said.
"You're quite right in that it can't happen overnight, but we're not starting it now, we started it years ago and already we can see these new houses coming on board."
'A CRISIS WITHOUT DOUBT'
Smith stood by his comments that the housing situation was a challenge and not a crisis.
However, Bennett said: "For those people that certainly haven't got one [a house], it is a crisis without doubt."
Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said Bennett's acknowledgement was a step in the right direction, but needed to be accompanied by "real policy that can make a difference".
"As we know for people who are addicts...admitting they have a problem, that's the first step towards redemption, and I hope this is Paula Bennett's first step."
* Comments on this story are now closed.