Resistance urged for housing bill

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 31/05/2013

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A Government bill aimed at making housing more affordable is being challenged by the Christchurch City Council over fears it will lead to even more of its decision-making powers being ripped away.

"We need to push back," Cr Peter Beck told councillors yesterday as the council debated its submission on the Government's Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill.

"It seems to me . . . that there is an ongoing onslaught on local government by national government . . . and it's undermining local democracy and we need to make a stand against it," he said.

The bill, which is being rushed through Parliament, is designed to free up land and speed up the provision of housing.

If passed, the legislation would see a streamlined consenting process in special housing areas agreed between councils and the Government.

But if an accord cannot be reached, the Government can intervene by establishing special housing areas and issuing consents for developments.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has been given $7.2 million over four years to fund the initiative.

Auckland has already been identified as one focus area but Christchurch is close to meeting supply and affordability thresholds set by the Govern ment.

A region crosses that threshold if the weekly mortgage payment on a median-priced house exceeds 50 per cent of the median weekly take-home pay or if the median house price divided by the gross annual median household income is 5.1 or over.

In Christchurch, the percentage of take-home pay required to service a mortgage on a median-priced Canterbury house is 49.1 per cent, while the median house price divided by the median income comes out at 6.5.

The city council is worried that could see the Government intervening on its patch.

"The council supports the intent of the bill but believes it goes too far in potentially overriding councils' responsibilities," the council's submission on the bill said.

It also questioned whether freeing up more land would actually result in more affordable housing.

"Council's recent experience suggests that land release alone has only a marginal effect on land prices."

The council suggested the Government could look at removing the GST component from first house purchases.

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- The Press

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