Pensioner housing a major priority for Labour - Twyford
A Labour-led government will work with councils to build up the stock of pensioner units, says housing spokesman Phil Twyford.
"There's a real need to provide decent, affordable tenure-secure housing for older New Zealanders," Twyford said. "In Nelson, particularly, because of the rapidly ageing population."
Twyford, the MP for Te Atatu, was in Nelson on Wednesday for a public meeting to outline Labour's housing policies ahead of the general election in September.
Pensioner housing was a "major priority" for Labour.
"We believe that councils are perfectly positioned to provide really good, affordable public housing in their communities," Twyford said. "That's why we will work with councils and provide finance for them to do that."
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Central government would provide funding at the "cheapest possible rate" that only it could access. In return, councils would need to commit to building units that they would not on sell.
Labour was also keen to see councils get access to the income-related rent subsidy, which is paid to housing providers by the Government.
"We haven't announced that as policy but it's something that we're looking seriously at," Twyford said.
The National Government had sent a "signal" to councils that they should get out of public housing.
"They changed the purpose statement in the Local Government Act, they denied giving them an income-related rent subsidy ... and they kind of said to councils on the quiet: 'This is not your role; sell it off to the private sector'," Twyford said.
There were many baby boomers who were retiring and did not own their own homes. They were living on superannuation in a private rental market "and look at what's happening to rents in Nelson". The average rent had increased by $1000 a year over the past 12 months in Nelson, Twyford said.
"It's very, very tough to survive on superannuation in a private rental market. There simply are not the places that are age-appropriate, safe and secure, warm and dry, close to public transport, walkable – all of those things that people need when they're in their 70s, 80s and 90s," he said. "We're going to build a lot of 21st Century pensioner housing that is all of those things."
However, Twyford could not say how many new pensioner housing units would be built in the Nelson region. "We have to look at demand."
Nor would he be drawn on how many new homes the Nelson region could expect under Labour's KiwiBuild programme, which aims to produce 100,000 "high-quality, affordable" homes over 10 years – half of which would be built in Auckland.
"We haven't got a precise number for Nelson," Twyford said. "You can be assured Nelson will get some. Nelson is a housing market under stress and it needs more homes and it particularly needs more affordable homes."
Under the KiwiBuild programme, the government would borrow $2 billion to kickstart the building. It would "drive down costs" by tendering the work to companies that could "scale up" and build the homes efficiently. It was expected the houses would range from $300,000 to $500,000 outside Auckland.
"Every time a house is built and sold to first-home buyers, the money is recycled back through and builds another house," Twyford said.
A proposed Affordable Housing Authority would hold all surplus urban Crown land and be able to use it for development projects.
Another key feature of Labour's housing policies is its pledge to boost the number of state houses.
"A net increase of at least 1000 a year," Twyford said. "That's every year until demand is met."
Labour would also run Housing New Zealand as a public service, not as a corporation "to be milked for profits".
Nelson candidate for Labour, Rachel Boyack, said housing was one of the key issues for constituents.
"It's consistent feedback around affordability of a first home and rentals," Boyack said.
People trying to get into their first home were often being outbid by domestic and foreign speculators, she said.
Labour planned to ban foreign speculators from buying existing homes, tax those who flick houses within five years and stop speculators from being able to use tax losses on their rental properties to offset their tax on other income.
"People trading in the market are basically getting rich by buying and selling houses to each other and what's happening is that young families and workers are unable to get access into that market at all and we've got dropping home ownership rates and that has an impact on how communities function," Boyack said.