Smith: Housing for aged a worry

New Zealand has a "massive" challenge ahead in providing sufficient social housing to an ageing population, Housing Minister Nick Smith says.

Smith was the keynote speaker at the Community Housing Impact conference which began in Nelson yesterday.

The community housing sector is meeting to discuss the Government's target of 20 per cent of social housing to be provided by non-governmental organisations by 2017.

Smith said there was a concern around a lack of housing options available to retired people on low incomes.

"I think this country has a massive upfront challenge ahead of us in respect of the housing of older people in lower income brackets," he said.

Housing New Zealand owned thousands of three-bedroom homes with a single older person "hogging" them that would be better occupied by families, Smith said.

"We need to get some new thinking . . . in terms of long term direction on providing for that part of the housing market."

Smith also spoke of the Government's bigger picture housing policy aiming to increase the supply, affordability and quality of New Zealand's general housing stock.

Several issues around affordability were identified in a report by the Productivity Commission last year.

To deal with the high cost of sections, the Government had a bill before Parliament to amend the Local Government Act to control rising development contributions, Smith said.

These contributions charged by councils were driving up section prices so in some areas they cost as much as $64,000 per section.

In this year's Budget, the Government moved to temporarily suspend tariffs and duties on building materials, which it said would offer a saving of about $3500 on a new house.

Smith said there was further work to do in the space of building materials to ensure New Zealanders were getting best value for money.

He also noted the "special challenges" faced in Christchurch.

Taking into account a deficit of 12,000 houses in that city, at the current build rate of 3000 houses per year, when population growth was incorporated it would take until 2018 until the housing market was normalised there, he said.

However, Smith said he was "hugely encouraged and optimistic" about the progress being made.

The new house build rate was currently at 24,000 a year, which was the highest in more than seven years, he said.

The Nelson Mail