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PQ 6 6. Housing, Minister—Statements on Homeownership

[Sitting date: 23 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:7. Text is subject to correction.]
6. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing : Does he stand by his statement “My ambition in housing is to make the dream of home ownership a reality for more New Zealanders”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): Absolutely, and that is why this Government has put so much work into advancing the reforms recommended by the Productivity Commission on freeing up land supply, constraining development contributions, and reducing tariffs and duties on building materials, as well as our sound economic policies, which are keeping interest rates low for longer.
Phil Twyford : Does he think that the dream of homeownership is becoming a reality for more New Zealanders on his watch when the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research shows that it now takes 50 years to pay off a home in Auckland, which means that people in their 30s will be paying off a mortgage in their 70s and 80s, or is that affordable housing under his Government?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Homeownership peaked in about 1986 and has been in decline for the best part of the 28 years since. The worst decline in homeownership occurred between 2000 and 2008, when house prices doubled and interest rates went from 5 percent to 11 percent. Such long-term trends take time to work through. We are making good progress.
Phil Twyford : How can he boast, as he does frequently, that his Auckland Housing Accord is making a difference, when his own Cabinet papers show that Auckland Council last year was forecasting that only 7,000 new dwellings would be consented this year, and that consents are now, according to the Auckland Council chief economist, running at less than that rate under the Minister’s accord, which is about half of what Auckland needs just to stand still; and is he surprised to learn that not a single new house has been built in his special housing areas since he announced them 14 months ago?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : What I can advise the member is that the rate of building consents both nationally and in Auckland is the fastest rate in 7 years, and that we are on target to meet those accord targets of an additional 9,000 houses this year, 13,000 next year, and 17,000 the year after. I can also confirm that more residential land has been zoned by us this year than has been zoned in the last 10 years.
Jami-Lee Ross : How does the rate of new house builds and housing affordability today compare with that when National first became Government?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The new house build rate collapsed in 2008 to just 1,000 per month nationally and to only 200 houses per month in Auckland. The current rate is 2,000 houses per month nationally and 600 per month in Auckland. That is, we are building twice as many houses every month nationally than when we became the Government, and three times as many houses per month than were being built in Auckland. On housing affordability data, what the Roost index shows is that housing affordability nationally has improved by 26 percent since we became the Government and 17 percent in Auckland, or if you want to use the Massey University Home Affordability Report, things have improved 35 percent nationally and 25 percent in Auckland.
Phil Twyford : Will he concede that, as shown in his Cabinet paper, for 5 years straight, under his Government, the number of building consents for new dwellings has been lower than for any year in the previous two decades, and even if he meets his Auckland Housing Accord target, he will never catch up with the shortfall?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : The record on building consents is very clear. They completely collapsed in 2008. They collapsed to the point that in November 2008 fewer houses were built than in any year in 15 years, and we are now building three times as many houses per month as when we became the Government, and I am proud of that record.
Phil Twyford : I seek leave of the House to table this Cabinet paper, which shows that for 5 years straight—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member’s use—[Interruption] Order! The member is describing the paper. It has been well described in his supplementary question. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular Cabinet paper. Is there any objection?
Hon Dr Nick Smith : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : I am putting the leave first for this. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none. It can be tabled.
• Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith : I seek leave to table Statistics New Zealand’s housing building consent figures—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Order! The member can resume his seat. New Zealand statistics are available to all members easily.
Phil Twyford : Is he aware that new figures show that property investors with multiple houses make up 43 percent of house sales, showing that property speculation is out of control, particularly in Auckland, and does he agree with Westpac that a capital gains tax would reduce the value of rental properties for speculators by 23 percent, which would make his failing housing policy fairer, and help more New Zealanders into their own homes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH : All of the advice that I have seen about a capital gains tax is that it will make any difference to the housing market only if you include the two-thirds of homes that are owned by ordinary families. I do not know any political parties that are endorsing that view, but I would never doubt the capacity of members opposite to want to tax more hard-working New Zealanders.

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