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Housing affordability: Sensible solutions

Phil Heatley MP
National Party Housing Spokesman

18 August 2008

Housing affordability: Sensible solutions

National Party Housing spokesman Phil Heatley has welcomed the findings of a select committee inquiry into housing affordability, and says they're largely an endorsement of National's sensible approach to the issues confronting first-home buyers.

"Under Labour's watch, the cost of getting into a new home has skyrocketed. The select committee appears to agree that regulatory roadblocks have steadily added costs to the price of a house and that reform of bureaucracy and red tape is what's required as a first step."

The Commerce Select Committee's inquiry into housing affordability was released on Friday. It was prompted by a call from Mr Heatley in February 2007. Labour initially said this inquiry was not needed and offered only reluctant support when it became clear the Government did not have the numbers to stop it.

"Even though property prices have now stabilised, they are still higher than most first-home buyers can afford."

Many of the Commerce Committee's recommendations are in line with what National has been saying:

* More effort needs to be put into streamlining local authority processes in order to reduce compliance costs and thus improve the affordability of housing.

* Steps need to be taken to ensure local councils and landowners are encouraged to plan for, and release on to the market, a forward supply of suitable land for subdivision so that land supply meet land demand.

* That it conduct a further review of the Building Act 2004 and the Building Code to streamline their practical application to new building consents for new homes. For example, The Registered Master Builders Federation pointed out that while just four or five pages of plans are needed to build a new home, 12 or 13 pages are required to obtain the building consent. As a result some builders have needed to quadruple the number of drafting staff they employ.

* That it continue to investigate ways to reduce construction costs.

Mr Heatley says it is clear that over the past nine years Labour could have been doing more to help first-home buyers, beyond narrowly targeted schemes which help only a lucky few.

"The affordable housing at the much-hyped Hobsonville project does not meet the Government's own affordability tests, and the Prime Minister's big claims about the vast tracts of Crown land that could be freed up for housing appear to have gone nowhere.

"Labour's taken only timid steps in terms of regulatory reform with mixed results. Shane Jones has announced welcome but limited moves around standardised building designs, while Maryan Street's plan to force affordable housing initiatives onto local authorities and developers has been roundly rejected.

"Clearly, the committee agrees that what's required are sensible solutions, less red tape, and less bureaucracy, and a Government committed to sorting that out for the many, rather than the few."


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