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Housing bill passes after marathon debate

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/09/2016 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Parliament has passed the government's housing bill after a marathon debate, driven by opposition MPs, that forced question time to be set aside.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith introduced the bill under urgency on Tuesday and the 17-hour debate covered two days.

Question time and other government business had to be set aside on Wednesday as Labour and Green Party MPs put up numerous amendments - all of them defeated.

The Housing Legislation Amendment Bill extends the time limit for creating special housing areas by three years.

Without it, authority would lapse on September 16 and there are still eight SHAs to be set up in Auckland.

They've been delayed because they have to comply with zoning rules in the city's new Unitary Plan.

Dr Smith said during the third reading debate the SHAs had the capacity for 7900 new homes, and without the bill they wouldn't be built.

"This will get more houses built more quickly, it should have the full support of parliament," he said.

"For all the debate over two days, I have not heard one cogent argument against its provisions."

Labour's housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, said the bill epitomised the "microscopic tinkering" that was the government's approach to the housing crisis.

"Housing policy under this government is an unmitigated disaster, they have totally stuffed up," he said.

The bill also ensures that when publicly owned land is designated for housing, the government doesn't first have to offer it back to its original owners at market prices.

Dr Smith said that was always the intention of the provisions in the Housing Act, but the legislation wasn't explicit and could lead to uncertainty.

Opposition MPs argued a fundamental change was being made to property rights.

The minister produced written advice from the Treasury which said the change proposed in the bill was "minor and doesn't change any rights".

The bill was passed into law late Wednesday night by 61 votes to 60.

National, ACT and United Future supported it.

Labour, the Greens, NZ First and the Maori Party opposed it.

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