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Dunne: Asset building key to housing policy

Media Statement
For immediate release
Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Dunne: Asset building key to housing policy

Encouraging higher levels of home ownership is a priority for United Future, according to leader Peter Dunne in launching his party's Housing policy today.

"It makes much more sense to focus our social policy on building assets rather than supplementing income, because families who own their own home get a continuous pay-off from that asset."

"So much of the debt incurred by the working age population these days is used to buy consumables or assets that depreciate in value, rather than assets that could be considered an investment. This creates a danger that future generations will be both income-poor and asset-poor when they retire, putting even more pressure on the superannuation scheme."

United Future has already demonstrated its commitment to asset-building, by ensuring that the KiwiSaver workplace savings scheme will enable participants to make withdrawals for the purpose of purchasing a first home and receive a government top-up.

United Future has also successfully lobbied the government to start work on a voluntary long-term savings scheme that can be started from birth, that would allow their parents, grandparents and others to put money in for the purposes of future tertiary education or training costs, buying a first home, setting up a business or starting a family.

In addition to continuing work on these policies, United Future will allowing families to capitalise their Working For Families entitlements to help purchase or build a home, extend existing homes, or increase equity in a home. Those who choose to receive their payments in this way as a lump sum will be entitled to a small additional incentive to acknowledge the savings in administrative costs for the government.

"We would also re-establish a rent-to-buy programme for state house tenants, assisting them to buy on the private market or to purchase their state house, replenishing housing stock when they are sold.

For example, a shared equity scheme would enable households to rent a property and buy it at any time, receiving a percentage share of the increase in value as a notional deposit to help buy it.

"The initial target of this policy would be the 6,000 or so state house tenants who already pay market rents.

"We will also alleviate difficulties that some areas have in recruiting and retaining 'key workers' such as health workers, teachers, police officers and social workers, by providing them with assistance to enable them to rent or purchase houses in those areas.

United Future will also:

* Investigate the constraints on increasing the supply of housing, such as those imposed by urban planning rules and the Resource Management Act, the availability of land, and the labour market for construction.

* Ensure that surplus state houses do not lie empty whilst long waiting lists exist in other areas, and re-configure the type of housing stock to match demand.

* Consider the sale of state houses with high valuations to purchase more properties for the same money.

* Dedicate funding for beautification and greening of state house areas, with local autonomy for specific beautification projects, to avoid state housing areas becoming undesirable and to encourage pride within housing communities. This will be achieved in partnership with local councils and communities so people have ownership in improving their community.

* Extend the provision of community housing

* Review Housing NZ tenancies on an annual basis to ensure that the occupants still meet the criteria and to ensure that housing stock is fairly allocated, and encourage long-term tenants into home ownership.

* Encourage investment by the private sector and community agency in the construction of rental housing to be managed by Housing NZ as well as low cost housing available for purchase.

* Extend the existing scheme in which Work and Income NZ deducts Housing NZ rentals directly from benefits to include private sector rentals.

* Review the effectiveness of the accommodation supplement.

* Support and encourage programs like Habitat for Humanity and Papakaianga that promote community and self-help effort to build new houses for needy families.

* Promote greater use of secondary dwellings for elderly, to reduce housing costs, encourage family care, and provide peace of mind.

* Promote co-housing as an option for older people to join together to create and manage their own accommodation

* Ensure that all state houses are energy-efficient and well insulated.

* Boost funding to EECA for a comprehensive nationwide programme of retro-fitting existing homes with energy saving improvements (including better insulation, hot water cylinder wraps, low-flow shower heads, energy efficient light bulbs, and incentives for installing solar hot water heating) and the installation of cleaner heating.

* Adopt a national strategy, including private sector funding, to insulate all NZ homes to at least 1977 standards, prioritising the homes of the elderly

* Require all dwellings sold to be assessed for energy efficiency (e.g. insulation, double glazing, heating methods, use of solar energy) and given a standardised energy efficiency rating.

* Establish a national tenancy database which contains accessible information about tenants and landlords based on the records of tenancies (e.g. bond lodgements) and the outcomes of tenancy tribunal decisions.

* Zero-rate local body rates for GST.

ENDS

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