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Maharey Speech: Developments in housing


Steve Maharey Speech: Developments in housing

Comments at a housing forum organised by Housing Action Porirua. Pataka, Porirua Arts and Cultural Museum.
Introduction

Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to be here today to talk about the new Department of Building and Housing.

As we all know, housing plays a critical role in the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.

While plenty of attention is paid to the need for affordable, decent housing for New Zealanders, what is sometimes overlooked is the importance of having a healthy building and housing sector on which to build quality infrastructure and homes.

So, I’d like to tell you a little about how the new Department of Building and Housing came about.

For a start, government’s role in housing, building and construction is far reaching, and includes: providing advice, education and dispute resolution for tenants, landlords, builders and home owners regulating and monitoring legislation governing building practices working with industry to ensure homes and buildings are well built, and that the necessary infrastructure is in place.

It is important that these areas work well together. The government’s aims here are that: quality houses and buildings are built at reasonable cost effective regulation enforces appropriate standards, rights and obligations the government receives sound policy advice on property rental markets, building systems and standards landlords, builders, tenants and homeowners have access to effective dispute resolution services, and the importance of construction, building and housing to our daily lives is recognised.

A changing sector

Over the last 15 years the building and housing sector has undergone significant change. I’d like to draw your attention to a few key changes: more and more New Zealanders are renting, and more are renting for life demand for quality housing – which is increasingly costly - is rising Investment in housing continues to grow. cities are feeling more of the pressure, with more apartments being built there while many people are choosing to have fewer children, many are opting to live with their extended families people are choosing to build with different materials, and there has never been a better time to be a builder! The building and construction industries are thriving.

Bearing all this in mind, the government has looked at how best to regulate and provide services across the building and housing sector.

The Department of Building and Housing

Last year the government began to consider what the most effective administrative arrangements to support the building and housing sector.

We commissioned a review of housing and building-related agencies with the view to thinking about how regulation and dispute resolution in the sector should be delivered.

The main problem we found was fragmentation.

There were seven agencies providing regulatory and dispute resolution services. It was a real challenge to link these services with overarching policy work.

We saw that we needed to bring together groups working on similar issues within the sector.

This would pool their combined expertise on housing and building policy and regulation, and strengthen central government capability in this important area.

From this came the vision for the Department of Building and Housing.

The Department will provide a “one stop shop” for regulatory issues and standards affecting building, housing and construction, dispute resolution, public information, education and consumer advice.

It will have a more integrated approach to policy development and advice to government.

And also, to compliance and enforcement – that is, the day-to-day checks to make sure the policy designed to deliver quality buildings is having the desired effect on building sites, and in homes.

This is no small task.

Bringing the Department together involves around 350 staff, 6 agencies, and 14 months.

First up, the Ministry of Housing will be renamed the Department of Building and Housing.

Then, will come: the functions of the building industry authority when the authority is dissolved by the recently passed Building Act 2004; policy and regulatory functions around the building and construction sector and regulation for associated occupations from the Ministry of Economic Development; work around retirement villages from the Ministry of Social Development, and housing standards work from HNZC, and transferring the weathertight homes resolution service and responsibility for fencing swimming pools from the department of internal affairs.

The department will take the role of regulatory agency for the residential rental market and provision of services to tenants and landlords currently being undertaken by the Ministry of Housing. There’s a lot going on, and I think we’re on the right track.

Early feedback tells us the building and construction sector, as well as property investors, welcome the change.

Tenants associations have also indicated their support.

Our main goal is to streamline services, policy, compliance and enforcement within the building, housing and construction area.

The change process will start in November and wrap-up in early 2006.

The Department will complement Housing New Zealand Corporation’s role, which focuses on providing housing, and access to housing, for low to middle income households.

I understand you will hear a brief update this morning on the Corporation’s Community Renewal project in Eastern Porirua, which is working with community groups and the local council to make this area a better place to live.

Change is certainly the dominant theme in the building and housing sector today, evident at the local level with programmes such as Community Renewal, as well as on a national scale.

Key changes in the housing arena, which you may already have observed in your community, are – to name only a few: an aging baby-boomer generation increasingly expensive homes and rents, plus changing tenure patterns more variety in the sorts of houses being built, and the materials they’re made of, and lengthy waiting lists for affordable state housing in areas of high demand.

This makes for challenging times. I’d like to talk briefly about how the government is stepping up to these challenges: Most state house tenants pay income related rents We are getting tougher on building standards There are programmes in place to upgrade older state houses We are addressing substandard housing in rural areas We’ve introduced a mortgage insurance scheme with Kiwibank to help those on low to moderate incomes into home ownership The Housing Innovation Fund is helping generate more social housing, through working with community, Maori and iwi groups, and local government.

While the government has responded to change with policies and programmes that have an effect today, it is also looking ahead to the housing needs of New Zealanders over the coming decade.

Consultation on a draft New Zealand Housing Strategy closed recently, and a final version – which will chart the Government’s direction on housing policy over the longer term – is expected to be ready by the end of the year.

The development of the strategy is being led by Housing New Zealand Corporation, in conjunction with other departments including Treasury, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Housing.

The new Department of Building and Housing will play an integral role in the strategy’s development.

Conclusion

We’ve covered a lot of ground this morning, and I think it’s fair to say it’s a rapidly changing landscape.

Housing is something that affects us all, and while the government plays its part, groups such as Housing Action Porirua make an important contribution at the community level.

It is the valuable dialogue and leadership that happens at this local level that makes national policy relevant, and effective.

Forums like this morning are an important avenue for gathering insights into local issues, and for discussing the future.

Again – thank you for involving me today, it has been my pleasure to be here.

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