Little calls for more affordable homes, but says fall in existing prices not the answer
Labour wants to see more affordable houses built, but is steering clear of suggesting it would welcome a fall in prices, even in Auckland.
After a week focused on his successful defence of a defamation claim, Labour leader Andrew Little was back on message today with a 20 minute press conference dominated by housing issues and Labour's plan to build houses and crack down on speculators.
He said the Government had failed to acknowledge there was a housing crisis. Speculators were snapping up houses, even in Invercargill, pushing up rents.
With estimates ranging from a nationwide shortfall of 60,000 houses up to 100,000 and even 500,000 there was an urgent need to act.
He said investors "are part of the problem - I think speculators that are in there to get their pound of flesh, take what they can".
"We know that overseas speculators, people who want to buy a property here because they see a market that's red hot - they don't want to live in the house they just want to own it - and we do nothing about that either whereas other countries do."
He reiterated Labour was committed to its policy that overseas buyers who want to own a property here must build a new house.
The party would also "go after negative gearing rules" to dampen speculators driving up prices.
But asked if he welcomed signs Auckland house prices were falling, Little said no.
"Falling house prices doesn't add a single extra house to a market that is at least 60,000 houses short," he said.
"Just trying to manipulate the prices of existing houses isn't going to provide the 60,000 houses needed. There is only one answer to the housing crisis and that is build more bloody houses and that's what we are going to do."
Having the right number of houses would stabilise prices, not crash house prices.
Labour's Kiwibuild policy, promising to build 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years and on-sell them, used $550,000 - $600,000 as the measure of an affordable house.
Only first home buyers would be able to buy Kiwibuild homes, and would have to hold them for at least five years.
Enforcing that would not be difficult, Little said, suggesting those that sold early might face a "top-up fee".
"You are not going to be part of a scheme to get an affordable home and not meet the obligations that go with it," he said.
"We make sensible rules for good plans and there will always be exceptions."
According to Labour's website, to avoid buyers reaping windfall gains they would have to hand back any capital gain if they sold within 5 years.
Little said National had failed to manage immigration, especially by bringing in labourers when there were unemployed labourers here, and by the number of work visas issued.
But he said Labour would manage immigration, not cap it.
Prime Minister Bill English said the Government was always looking at "tweaking" immigraiton settings.
"But we do need people with the skills for a growing economy."
He had talked to one transport operator, who had 25 trucks parked up because he couldn't get enough drivers. There was also a need for house building, with a lot of labour brought in for the Christchurch rebuild and that need was moving north.
"It's about a balance and getting people in with the skills on the one hand, but on the other hand making sure that it's all manageable."