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National wakes up to the housing shortage

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/05/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

NZ housing © Getty NZ housing The government has finally realised the housing shortage could cost it a fourth term.

This week's announcement that it will build more than 34,000 new homes on Crown land in Auckland over the next decade is it's first effective response to Labour's Kiwibuild policy.

There will be 13,500 new social houses for low income earners and about 20,600 will be released to the market.

The government is getting into building houses and selling them to first home buyers.

Auckland has been chosen because that's where houses are most needed and a third of the country's voters live there.

It's been a long time coming, and Labour has built up a big lead.

It's Kiwibuild policy - 100,000 affordable homes in 10 years, with 50,000 of them in Auckland - was announced in 2014.

The policy sounds good, the figures are easy to remember, they've been churned out hundreds of times.

There's no way a Labour-led government could slide out of it.

It would have to deliver, however hard the task might turn out to be.

The government doesn't think it can be done.

Amy Adams, now the de facto housing minister, says two years of research went into her announcement on Tuesday.

"This is the total amount that can feasibly be built on Crown land over the next 10 years if we still care about the quality of the accommodation of the communities we are creating," she told the New Zealand Herald.

"Could you squeeze more properties on to the land? Probably. Would it be a good idea? No."

Labour's response was to scoff at the plan and call it too little, too late.

There's no way it copes with Auckland's population growth of 100 people a day, the party says.

There's also a big difference between the government and Labour when it comes to affordability.

All of Labour's homes would be in the affordable range compared with 50 per cent of the government's.

Adams says there has to be a range of prices to get buy-in from developers, because Housing NZ isn't going to build all the homes.

The definition of "affordable" in Auckland is scary.

Labour says its homes would go for between $550,000 and $600,000, the government's figure is up to $650,000.

Both have a policy of giving first home buyers preference.

Adams is heading off critics who say the houses will be snapped up by speculators, saying there will be rules around who can buy them.

"Our interest is in ensuring that people are buying them to live in, and live in them for some time."

Labour signalled at it's election year congress last weekend it will make the housing shortage - it calls it a crisis - the centrepiece of its election campaign.

Unless the government has more in its locker, Labour will stay ahead.

Linked with Kiwibuild are its policies to ban foreigners from buying existing houses, extending the "flip over" tax free time from two years to five, and changing the rules around negative gearing so that landlords can't claim tax breaks on rental properties.

There's more teeth in Labour's policy package, and the government could get bitten.

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