Smith: Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill
Hon Dr Nick Smith
Minister of Housing
5 September 2013
Third Reading Speech for the
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill
Mr Speaker, I move that the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill be now read a third time.
This bill, introduced as part of Budget 2013, is about enabling tens of thousands of homes to be built.
It is about helping kiwi families to realise the dream of owning their own home.
It’s about supporting the New Zealand economic recovery by reducing the financial risks of Auckland’s house price bubble.
It’s about employment and freeing up the land so that builders, plumbers, electricians, drain-layers, plasterers and painters can get on and construct the homes cities like Auckland so desperately need.
Mr Speaker, this bill is based on sound research.
We’ve had the Productivity Commission, the Reserve Bank, the OECD, the IMF and every substantive report on housing highlight the need for additional supply.
Let me highlight the problem.
Auckland has just 1,300 sections currently available for housing.
That’s a third of what it had 10 years ago.
We need 13,000 each year just to keep up with population growth.
We’ve got a rigid Metropolitan Urban Limit prohibiting any new housing developments beyond the artificial line drawn 15 years ago.
We’ve got a few lucky land owners sitting on the last few parcels of developable residential land holding prospective homebuyers to ransom.
Section prices have trebled and gone up by more than any other part of the housing cost equation.
We’ve got a convoluted RMA planning system where it takes an average of seven years to get a plan changed by the time you get through all the consultation and appeal processes.
And even when you get a plan change, it takes an average of another three years to get a consent for a greenfields development and a year for a brownfields development.
We’ve got a constipated planning system blocking new residential construction and this bill is a laxative to get new houses flowing.
It will enable plan changes and resource consents to be approved simultaneously.
It overrides Auckland’s Metropolitan Urban Limit, freeing up thousands of hectares of land for housing.
It fast-tracks the consents process enabling greenfield developments to be approved in six months and brownfields in three months.
It makes plain that the Government’s strong preference is to get this work done in partnership with councils through Housing Accords, but also provides that Government can get on with the job if councils stand in the way of delivering an increased supply of affordable housing.
We have secured the first Housing Accord with Auckland.
In essence it enables the least contentious 39,000 homes of the 400,000 proposed in Auckland’s 30 year plan to be built over the next three years.
The alternative is that we sit and wait three years before we enable any new residential development.
That would be a disaster for Auckland and an even bigger disaster for New Zealand.
We are also progressing discussions with other councils with high housing costs to use the tools in this bill to facilitate more affordable housing.
Mr Speaker, the Government has made plain that this new law is just part of our comprehensive plan to address the challenges of land supply and affordability.
We’ve announced changes to infrastructure costs, with a further bill to be introduced later this year.
We’ve announced the next phase of RMA reforms that will simplify the planning process and require councils to plan for 10 years of residential housing supply.
We’ve got the materials costs inquiry reporting shortly to Ministers from which will flow significant new initiatives.
We’ve got the work on streamlining building consents and introducing a new online consenting system.
We’ve lifted our investment in apprenticeships
We’ve trebled the number of Welcome Home Loans.
We’ve announced the expansion to the KiwiSaver First Home Deposit Subsidy scheme.
And, we’ve got dozens of projects underway where the Government is directly facilitating new housing development like at Hobsonville, Rangers Park, Tamaki, Papakura, and Weymouth.
This Government is directly building more houses than any Government in more than a generation.
This bill is a critical part of that programme.
I must put on record the incredibly shallow response from Labour that shows they are more interested in playing politics than helping kiwi families secure an affordable home.
They first described this bill as draconian and going too far and in the next breath said it was tinkering and didn’t go far enough.
They demanded urgent action and then opposed taking urgency to get this bill progressed.
They demanded we secure agreement with the Auckland Council, and then when we did, they opposed the Auckland Housing Accord and have done everything they can to try and unravel it.
Then there was that poignant moment in the committee stages of this bill when Mr Twyford claimed the bill had no specific mention of affordable housing, but then had to admit he had not read the bill.
It reminded me of that snapper moment with David Shearer and I suspect Labour will soon have a new housing spokesperson with its new leader.
Even more worrying is the opposition’s intellectual bankruptcy on the core issues affecting housing affordability.
Mr Twyford is on record in June saying land supply is not the issue.
He described the Productivity Commission’s report on housing as the work of dinosaurs.
Even more concerning was the contribution from Labour’s environment spokesperson Maryan Street, during the committee stages, who said Labour opposed reform of the RMA and that Labour had no concern over it taking three years to get a consent for a new residential development.
It shows Labour is part of the problem on housing and not part of the solution.
Labour has repeatedly criticised this bill because it does not guarantee houses at a particular price for kiwi families.
It just shows the degree in which Labour is off in la-la land.
They somehow believe that all we need to do to get New Zealanders affordable homes is to pass a law saying houses will be such and such a price and it will magically happen.
It is as daft as their idea from two of their leadership hopefuls that all we have to do to lift New Zealanders’ incomes is to pass a bill through Parliament requiring a liveable wage of $18.40 an hour.
Or their electricity policy that has Government just setting the lower price of electricity, and that somehow this would work.
It shows a complete ignorance of how a modern economy works.
Our job is to make the market work for people and for the country.
The truth is there are dozens of landowners and builders ready and waiting to get on and build the houses New Zealand needs before we contemplate the Government building all the homes.
We need to remove the barriers and let our kiwi entrepreneurs and innovators get on with the job.
Mr Speaker, there has been a power of work go into this bill.
I want to acknowledge the team at MBIE, PCO, and particularly Sam Lotu-Iiga and the very competent and focused team on the select committee, all of whom have been working under tight time pressure to deliver this new law.
The next step after the passage of this bill will be Auckland Council’s adoption of the Housing Accord next Tuesday and the notification of their Unitary Plan.
The law will take effect the following Monday.
My ambition is to have sufficient Special Housing Areas approved for at least an additional 5,000 homes by Christmas.
That’s what this is about – getting on and building the homes kiwi families need.
I commend this bill to the house.