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Shallow housing slogans irks MP

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/07/2016

As parties promote their solutions to the housing shortage, one MP is questioning the "inane, empty slogans" he's hearing, says NZ Newswire political writer Peter Wilson.

On November 18, 2012, Labour announced a flagship policy.

The party's then leader, David Shearer, said it would build 100,000 affordable houses in 10 years.

That's right, KiwiBuild was launched a few months shy of four years ago.

It didn't do Labour much good in last year's election but it's still being promoted, presumably in the belief that it's a vote winner.

A fortnight ago it was repackaged, with some add-ons, as the answer to the housing shortage.

What it has going for it is that it's a simple message compared with the government's "comprehensive solution".

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith knows the details of that inside out, and if anyone listens for long enough he can reel off an impressive list of initiatives.

Labour tries to get its message across without bothering too much about how all those houses are going to be built. It's the catchy figures that count.

The government does its best not to own the problem and talks about land supply and planning issues.

One MP who isn't impressed with what he's hearing is United Future's Peter Dunne.

"A complex and difficult social problem with many levels to it is being reduced to inane, empty slogans," he says.

"Just build 100,000 `more bloody houses' to quote the elegant language of the rather crude Leader of the Opposition, without any regard to how all that might be achieved."

He says to one political party, presumably he means National, the housing problem is all the fault of Auckland Council and the Resource Management Act.

"This resonates with its developer audience, while to another (presumably NZ First) it is all because of immigration, which plays well with its xenophobic audience."

Dunne says they do have one thing in common.

"Not one more young family is being housed as a result of these positions but, the political spin-masters would argue, that is a secondary consideration to getting the parties' respective brands across."

Dunne is right. That is what the spin-masters would argue.

It's all about impact, sound bites and being on TV. Whether anything will actually work doesn't matter so much.

Then there's the things they won't say.

They won't say they think prices should fall, because that would really upset voters who own houses.

Not even the Greens will say that.

Don Brash says they're terrified of stating the obvious.

"People on average wages in Auckland simply cannot remotely aspire to own a house," the former Reserve Bank governor and former leader of the National Party said in an interview with the New Zealand Herald.

"You cannot get affordable housing without a fall in prices - or wait half a century.

"If you could hold house prices static for half a century and have nominal incomes growing at say three per cent, you might get back to a reasonable relationship.

"In the meantime two generations are locked out of housing."

Brash's point is that to be affordable, house prices should be three to five times the median household income.

In Auckland, the ratio is nearly 10.

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