Housing changes 'no help for Auckland'

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 17:32 31/07/2013

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National's urgent legislation to open up more land for housing developments will not make "a blind bit of difference" to Auckland house prices, Labour says.

Parliament's social service's committee's report on the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill was released today after a shortened period for public submissions, with the Government trumpeting changes that "make it more workable".

Housing Minister Nick Smith said the bill gave the Government the power to override council planning and consents processes to free up land for housing developments to create more houses and address affordability issues.

"It is going to free up the system that is restricting land supply in Auckland," Smith said.

The bill has been criticised as undemocratic because it means the Government can override the will of local councils and does not include a requirement to consult with stakeholders, including councils and landowners.

The Auckland Council and the Government want to build 39,000 new houses in Auckland over the next three years to address the affordability crisis.

Labour said that while it supported opening up more land to development, it had withdrawn its support for the bill, saying it was flawed and would not increase the supply of affordable homes.

"Sadly, this bill won't make a blind bit of difference. It contains no mechanism to ensure that if any new houses are built in special housing areas that they will be affordable," Labour housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said.

"It is based on the notion that increasing supply of houses at any price will somehow bring down prices. This is trickle-down economics at its most dubious."

The houses were likely to be expensive and snapped up by speculators, he said.

Green Party housing spokeswoman Holly Walker said the amendments did not address any of the party's fundamental concerns.

The amended bill retained the Government's power, criticised as anti-democratic, to directly establish special housing areas and approve residential developments.

Many submitters argued that if the Government established special housing areas, it should at least include provisions for affordable housing, she said.

"If the goal is to increase the supply of affordable housing, tackle the housing affordability problem, then surely you want to make sure that the solution you are putting forward actually directly addresses that by building more affordable houses," she said.

Smith said this would be used as a last resort, when it was not able to reach an accord with local councils.

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"It is going to free up the system that is restricting land supply in Auckland."

He said the bill's "particular breakthrough" was extending the metropolitan urban limit in Auckland, which was having an impact on section prices that currently averaged $325,000.

"We're not going to get anywhere near affordable houses in Auckland unless we shift that," he said.

"This bill is going to give us the opportunity before Christmas to free up new areas of subdivision beyond that historic metropolitan limit."

The bill would see consents for developments fast-tracked to within six months, rather than three years currently, for greenfield developments, and three months, as opposed to one year, for brownfield developments. .

Other amendments to the bill included providing greater detail on how districts and regions were scheduled as having housing supply and affordability issues, Smith said.

The legislation is being passed under urgency, and Smith said he hoped it would be in place by September. 

- Fairfax Media

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