You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Housing policy critical for Labour

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/07/2016 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Labour has a lot riding on the housing policy leader Andrew Little will announce on Sunday.

It's the party's best chance to be noticed since the election and start shifting opinion polls which have stubbornly refused to move for many months.

Labour is striking at what it sees as National's weakest point - despite numerous government initiatives, prices just keep going up.

Quotable Value figures released this week showed average values in Auckland closing in on $1 million while in the rest of the country the average value of a home increased 13.5 per cent to $590,909 in June from a year earlier.

And Auckland's problem, which is at the centre of what the government refuses to call a crisis, is spilling over.

The QV figures showed Hamilton home values soared 29 per cent in the year to June to $492,403.

In Tauranga the increase was 24 per cent to $599,915.

In Auckland, most first home buyers can't get into the market without help, usually from their parents, and the way things are going the same situation will face those in other cities.

It's against this background that Little will announce Labour's solution, and he's chosen Auckland to do it.

The plan is tipped to be a ramped up version of the party's existing Kiwibuild policy - 100,000 affordable new homes in 10 years.

To achieve that a Labour government would partner with developers, re-investing the money from the first house sales to put into the next batch and eventually recovering all of it.

Little says his party has thought very carefully about what needs to be done, and the new policy will address the huge demand for housing in Auckland.

The government has ruled out a state-run building programme. It says whoever builds houses, the same problems exist - land shortage and council rules that make consenting slow and difficult.

The government has definitely been doing something about the housing shortage - efforts which Little calls "a hodgepodge of ideas" that is failing to get to grips with it.

It has announced a string of measures ranging from the creation of special housing areas where development is fast-tracked to the latest, a $1 billion housing infrastructure fund.

It has tightened tax rules around people who buy and sell houses for a profit - something Labour could strengthen in its new policy - and it has made it easier for Kiwisavers to gather a deposit.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith readily reels off all these initiatives when he is challenged over the way the government is responding to the housing shortage.

But it would be difficult to find many people outside parliament and politics who could remember them.

Compared with Labour's Kiwibuild policy, it can be difficult to grasp what the government calls it's "comprehensive plan" to address the shortage and make it easier for first home buyers to get on the ladder.

That's why Labour has a golden opportunity to seize the initiative and set the agenda on Sunday.

If it comes up with a clear and credible plan that people understand it could start eroding National's support.

It must do that to position itself for success in next year's election.

Swapping votes around between Labour, the Greens and NZ First won't cut it.

The housing policy has to be a hit, and a big one, or Labour will have fired its best shot and missed.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon