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Select committee proposes dispute resolution in housing bill

Select committee recommends dispute resolution process in housing accord bill

By Paul McBeth

July 31 (BusinessDesk) - Parliament’s social services select committee has recommended tighter definitions and a disputes resolution process for the government’s plan to build special housing areas, but failed to get the opposition parties onside for the legislation.

In its report back, the select committee recommended a raft of definitions to give greater clarity about the terms of the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill, and wants a resolution process to allay concerns the minister can run roughshod over a local authority. The legislation would let central government buddy up with local authorities to unlock land supply in a bid to stoke house building and take the heat out of a rampant Auckland property market.

“Most of us consider that, as the purpose of the bill is to enhance housing affordability by facilitating an increase in land and housing supply, it is desirable for the government to be able to intervene if necessary to hasten housing development,” the report said. “Our view is that the inclusion of a disputes resolution process in an accord could allay concerns. Others among us remain unconvinced.”

The housing accord bill was announced in the May budget, with plans to build 39,000 new houses in Auckland over the coming three years. The legislation came with more aggressive Treasury forecasts for house price inflation than in the December update, and rising property values have been a bugbear for the Reserve Bank, which sees it as a threat to the stability of New Zealand’s financial system.

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Housing Minister Nick Smith said the bill’s powers enabling the government to bypass local bodies to set up special housing areas and sign off on residential developments would only be used as a last resort, and he welcomed the recommendations.

The tweaks weren’t enough to satisfy the Labour, Green and New Zealand First parties, which all offered minority views opposing the legislation.

The Labour view said the chief defect of the legislation is that it wouldn’t lead to the building of any affordable housing, as it didn’t address other issues, such as poor productivity and a lack of scale in the building sector, limited competition in building material supply, developers’ ability to access capital, costs of preparing land for development and tax treatment for property.

“We would prefer to see a more comprehensive approach that tackles all of the housing unaffordability and actually guarantees the building of housing affordable for low to middle-income earners,” the Labour Party said.

Opposition leader David Shearer this week announced plans to introduce a ban on non-residents buying existing residential property in New Zealand if it wins the next election, and has already flagged plans to introduce a capital gains tax on property, excluding the primary residence.

Smith said the government will make passing the bill into law a priority, and hopes to do so in September.


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