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Labour scores 'F' for housing affordability

Phil Heatley MP National Party Housing Spokesman

25 March 2008

Labour scores 'F' for housing affordability

Labour's failed record on housing affordability is a disgrace, says National's Housing spokesman, Phil Heatley.

"After nearly nine years, the Kiwi home ownership dream remains elusive because Labour has failed to come up with any significant and meaningful propositions to address the problem.

"All of Labour's housing affordability schemes have had false starts or are fundamentally flawed. Its shared equity scheme has been rolled out at least 12 times since 2004 but still hasn't arrived; Labour's Welcome Home Scheme accounted for just over 1% of new home mortgages in 2005/06; and its flagship affordable housing scheme on the Hobsonville site received a cold dose of reality when both Housing NZ and the Housing Minister confirmed that the '500 affordable houses' will cost around $350,000 each and that first home buyers will have to be earning at least $70,000 a year to get into one.

"In addition, Labour's promise to free up more Crown land in Auckland for housing was ill-thought out. Ninety-nine per cent of residential land for housing is in private ownership so why doesn't the Government simply make it easier to free up that land?

"Now Labour is demanding that builders provide up to 15% of cheap homes on their developments. Experts say that will do little or nothing to address housing affordability.

"The latest initiative is to streamline the building consent process for desperate homeowners who are prepared to live in a Helen-approved 'starter' home. Why isn't Labour improving the consent process for every type of home in every neighbourhood?"

Mr Heatley says New Zealand's record of home ownership under Labour has been a total failure.

* Labour's own House Price Unit says 'a wide range of measures of affordability show that affordability has declined in the past four to five years...all measures of affordability have declined'. * The 2008 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey found New Zealand rates alongside those countries with the least affordable housing, and when interest costs were added, New Zealanders were in the worst position. * A study by the Centre of Housing Research found last year that the number of working households in Auckland that can no longer afford to buy at the lower quartile house price has grown 169% in the last decade.

"But Labour has been slow to recognise there is a problem. It even initially dismissed National's call for the current parliamentary inquiry into housing affordability, eventually offering reluctant support.

"Labour refuses to make it easier for private landowners to subdivide their land; it won't reform the RMA or streamline the Building Act to reduce compliance costs for every type of home, and it isn't addressing two key issues facing families struggling with crippling mortgage repayments: low take-home pay and some of the highest interest rates in the world.

"National will introduce a suite of initiatives to address the problem. We will be better managers of the economy, get interest rates under control, ensure people's take-home pay puts them in a stronger financial position, free up the supply of residential land, and slash compliance costs by reforming the RMA and Building Act.

"Chris Carter said in October last year 'Housing: our patch, our issue, our brand: Labour owns this territory'.

"Well, in the state it's in, they can have it.

"National will claim a different territory - one in which home ownership for Kiwis isn't a dream but a reality."


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