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National's housing timebomb detailed in damning paper

Newshub logoNewshub 7/12/2017 Anna Bracewell-Worrall
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The Housing Minister has been delivered a stark message by Government Ministries: the high cost of housing is a drain on health, education, employment, homelessness, productivity, is causing wealth inequality and increasing the cost of Government services.

The damning nature of the report has the former Housing Minister suspicious. Dr Nick Smith said "it's quite clear" the briefing was redrafted since the new Government formed.

According  to the briefing, demand for state or social housing is "increasing rapidly", and that increase is driven "significantly" by a shortage of affordable homes.

The number of households waiting for state or social housing increased 72 percent between September 2015 and September 2017.

The briefing put together by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) says the lack of affordable housing, which has caused high house prices, has increased Government costs of social and affordable housing.

The housing crisis is taking wealth off "younger and less wealthy people" and transferring it to existing landowners, "who are generally richer and older," MBIE informed the Minister.

House prices are a "major cause of the observed increase in wealth inequality".

The briefing says building more houses - especially much more affordable housing - is important. But it won't be enough. MBIE says there also need to be measures that will control demand. Temporary interventions could include restrictions on immigration and credit, it says. 

Tax changes would be justified as a permanent improvement to the system, the briefing from the MBIE says. It's a nod to a capital gains, wealth or land tax.

More and more people will experience "poorer overall outcomes" under the current conditions, which the cost of housing taking increasing chunks out of incomes. Households who rent are associated with poorer social and economic outcomes, it warns.

The briefing says market forces alone "will not produce socially optimal outcomes."

The former Minister of Housing Nick Smith says there's something fishy going on with the briefing documents.

"They are usually drafted in a completely neutral way," he said.

"You've got a new Government that's trying to make it look as bad as possible... Were these briefings drafted before or after consultation with themselves?" 

Dr Smith says the new Government is overpromising and delivering.

"What we have now is the fastest rate of housebuilding in more than a decade.

"My challenge to the new Government is to make sure we maintain the momentum of more than 15% per year growth in the new house rate." 

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