Package needed to solve housing issues

Last updated 11:30 23/01/2013
Nick Smith
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
NICK SMITH: Minister of housing and conservation.

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The Resource Management Act is in the Government's sights as it targets housing affordability, says new Housing Minister Nick Smith.

Smith told TV3's Firstline that there was "no magic silver bullet" to solve the issue of declining home ownership in New Zealand, but that law reform would be required.

"We're going to have to develop a comprehensive package in dealing with all of these [issues] if we're going to help Kiwi families reach that dream of being able to own part of this Kiwi paradise," he said.

"The Resource Management Act is not working for New Zealanders around the issue of housing affordability and the Government has quite clearly signalled changes in that area.

"It is not just a simplistic notion of only building up or only building out.

"It's about getting all of those systems from land supply to the actual construction of the houses working more effectively."

The Government's focus on housing affordability was underlined yesterday by Smith's surprise promotion to the housing portfolio when Prime Minister John Key announced his new Cabinet.

In recalling Smith from the back benches, Key said he understood home ownership was important to New Zealanders and vowed action on affordability.

"It's a very complex issue and I need a minister with the sort of energy that Nick has got," Key said.

The move came as Finance Minister Bill English warned councils could be stripped of land-allocation powers unless new space was set aside for development, especially in Auckland and Christchurch.

English predicted progress within months, adding: "Certainly well before next year we would be expecting to see changes."

A report yesterday from Demographia warned that homes were becoming more out of reach for New Zealanders, with the average house now costing 5.3 times the median income in main centres, up from 5.2 times a year ago.

Labour has made housing one of its key policies, promising to build 100,000 homes over a decade, but Key has dismissed the plan, claiming there was little hope of building houses for $300,000 in Auckland of the type people wanted.

Key said yesterday that Smith would work with local councils and be involved in Resource Management Act reform, dropping hints of greater work with social housing providers.

"I'm not... promising that the Government's going to go and build a whole lot of houses, but what I can say is we believe that the social sector can play a bigger role," Key said.

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Smith said last night that housing affordability was closely tied to Resource Management Act reform.

"That data is very clear, that the biggest increase in house prices has been in the price of the land," he said, adding that the Kiwi dream of home ownership had become "too big a stretch for too many".

- Stuff

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