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National’s screwed up new housing policy

Written By: - Date published: 9:59 pm, October 1st, 2013 - 43 comments
Categories: housing - Tags:

We all know that there is a massive home affordability problem, especially in Auckland. There are 150,000 fewer homeowning families today than there would have been at 1991’s homeownership rate. So, here’s National’s plan: don’t build any additional houses, just sell some state houses (despite the waiting list for them) in provincial towns… where there isn’t an affordability crisis, and give 500 families these houses up to $20,000 of taxpayer money. That’s not a home affordability policy, it’s a parody of one.

National’s policy to give the buyers of these 500 state houses a 10% or $20,000 gift (whichever is least) will cost $6 million all up. That’s $6 million in subsidies to 500 families is a hell of a lot of money – $12,000 each on average for houses that are worth $120,000 on average.

And families with incomes up to $83,000 will be able to buy them. Usually when you talk home affordability crises, its because the average house is 5 or more times the average wage, not 1.5 times. What you’re going to see is a handful of middle income families buying houses that they can afford and getting a taxpayer gift on top. Helping middle class families to buy cheap houses (that, by the way, poor people want to live in!) seems like a bloody strange way to spend taxpayer money.

Ff the Government really doesn’t need these particular state houses anymore, it should just sell them at market price and use the funds to buy new houses of the type and in the place needed. There’s no need for a big subsidy to a random few. It’s not just that one middle class family gets $12,000 that they don’t particularly need while another down the road, or in another city, that can’t buy an ex-state house misses out.

The Greens say that they actually looked at deposit subsidies when they put together their housing policy at the start of the year. They quickly worked out it’s a big per unit cost – it can be help lots of people where it’s really needed only if it’s really, really expensive, or it can be tiny and half-arsed, which is what National’s presented. The Greens, instead, decided on a cost-neutral modern version of State Advances to compliment Labour’s KiwiBuild.

Actually, this subsidised sale scheme reminds me a lot of the Nats’ asset sales subsidies: they only benefit a relative few at relatively large cost to everyone else and for no good economic reason, just a political one.

43 comments on “National’s screwed up new housing policy”

  1. greywarbler 1

    I noticed that this help is for those under the average wage. Isn’t that half of NZ? Ooh we’d have given our grandma’s knickers for the average wage. Why we had to live under a house and sweep the joists with our moustaches etc.

  2. Lanthanide 2

    “National’s policy to give the buyers of these 500 state houses a 10% or $20,000 gift (whichever is least) will cost $6 million all up. That’s $6 million in subsidies to 500 families is a hell of a lot of money – $12,000 each on average for houses that are worth $120,000 on average.”

    They say it will be largely cost neutral, in that by selling these houses (which are mostly vacant) they won’t have to pay ongoing maintenance, security, management costs and council rates.

    Of course if they didn’t give a subsidy then rather than being cost neutral it’d make them money, but on the other hand a cost-neutral subsidy to get the house off their books, freeing up capital isn’t the most terrible thing in the world.

    So is the policy by itself completely terrible? No. But it simply is far far too little, far too late, by this government. If it was a tiny line-item amongst a bigger housing policy it wouldn’t be too big a deal.

    Eddie: don’t fall for that ‘cost neutral’ bullshit. the alternatives are 1) rent the house and use the rent to cover those outgoings 2) sell the house and let the new owner take over the outgoings. If the state houses are really ‘surplus’ and this isn’t actually a sale of useful efforts, then just sell them, like governments have always done

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      Re: Eddie.

      1. The houses are vacant because they can’t find tenants.
      2. That’s what they’re proposing. If the market price is $120,000 and it wouldn’t sell at that price (same reason the houses are vacant), but if you gave a (say) $12,000 subsidy to people in a select group to buy it, then it’s the same as if you sold it for $108,000, but you get to give the subsidy to a particular group rather than just anyone on the open market.

      • bad12 2.1.1

        Lanthide at (1), an entirely false proposition, the houses are vacant because they do not want to find tenants, there’s a huge difference…

        • Lanthanide 2.1.1.1

          They say it’s because the houses are in the wrong place and the wrong size.

          Reflexively disbelieving everything the government says because it doesn’t suit your political position isn’t particularly constructive.

    • Rogue Trooper 2.2

      Like

  3. xtasy 3

    From the Herald:

    “The new FirstHome scheme would allow modest wage earners to be gifted a 10 per cent deposit, and would give them priority to purchase empty homes which were no longer needed by Housing New Zealand.

    To be eligible, a buyer would have to earn $53,000 or less and commit to living in the house for a minimum of three years. A couple would have to earn no more than $80,600.
    Housing New Zealand would make a grant of 10 per cent of the property’s value, up to a maximum of $20,000.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11132933

    “Where will the state houses be sold?

    Housing New Zealand area Number
    Northland – 63
    North Waikato – 14
    Rotorua/Whakatane/Taupo – 31
    Hawke’s Bay – 27
    New Plymouth/South Waikato – 67
    Manawatu/Levin/Wanganui – 46
    Kapiti – 19
    Marlborough – 17
    Canterbury (excluding Christchurch City) – 26
    Otago – 27
    Southland – 23″

    Wow, what a magic solution by Nick “Shit”, ahem, sorry, Nick Smith(erines Brain). And I thought I was going “nuts” at times.

    So we have houses that Housing NZ no longer need. Why do they no longer need them? Is it because there are few if any jobs where the houses are? Maybe the new owners will be commuting from there to Christchurch and Auckland for work, that is not that easy to get in most provinces?

    By coincidence, I have been on the Housing NZ list for years, and I am astonished they now have houses they “don’t need”. What about those with permanent disability, serious illness and work incapacity to be given an option to rent – before selling them with a “sweetener” to some adventurous middle class people that may want to try the provinces?

    Next on the agenda: Nick Smiths great weekly HOUSING LOTTERY!

    All is done to address housing shortages in NZ now, rest assured, the government is taking real action now. Twyford said on the TV news that this is “nuts”, and proves that the government has no policies and no solution for the housing crisis.

    • miravox 3.1

      “So we have houses that Housing NZ no longer need. Why do they no longer need them? Is it because there are few if any jobs where the houses are? Maybe the new owners will be commuting from there to Christchurch and Auckland for work, that is not that easy to get in most provinces?”

      ^^ This.

      And after the new owners have bought their homes, there will be a reinvigorated policy of docking the unemployment benefit because they can’t move to where the jobs are because of their ‘investment’ in an area of economic decline.

      Regional development might fix that, but I think this housing policy shows that won’t happen.

    • xtasy 3.2

      Correction: Phil Twyford was stating on the TV news that these efforts by the government were “desperate”. I thought he used the word “nuts” at some stage, but maybe I heard him say that on a radio program last night? I do not want to put words into Phil’s mouth, apologies.

      • Phil Twyford 3.2.1

        I could have said nuts. It is nuts.

        • Rogue Trooper 3.2.1.1

          I have pondered on this announcement; it appears balanced (notwithstanding “property investors” taking liberties ); nonetheless, clever politics.

    • Treetop 3.3

      xtasy, the government narrowed the criteria to rent from HNZ, this is the main reason for any so called surplus.

      • xtasy 3.3.1

        Treetop – I know all about it, as I am affected as a long term “priority C” waiting list dweller. They shafted me and thousands of others, but I was never having a real chance anyway. Thousands are only kept on the list, as the Nat government “promised” during the tightening, that they would not throw anyone off the list, who was already on it. That though will turn out to be a lie, as they are only waiting for a good enough time and excuse, to clear that backlog. It is ONLY priority A now, who have any chance to get a HNZ home, all others will possibly at some stage be “assisted” to find something “suitable” on the market.

        Struggling with high rents on the market, while suffering ill health, constantly being between a rock (WINZ) and a hard place (“the market” and landlord), that does anything but assist my recovery from certain illness.

        But wait, Dr Bratt has the solution, I am told!?

      • xtasy 3.3.2

        I was also absolutely flabbergasted, when HNZ staff told me, that having an uninsulated home, where temperatures drop to 10 or less degrees in winter, was not a reason for getting higher priority for state housing help.

        If you are without running water, without proper toilet or cooking facilities, with no proper roof over the head, basically out on the street, or living in a tent or a garage (as a mother with kids), then you may have a chance.

        To “qualify” for HNZ support one has to be in very extreme circumstances, as the experiences I had with a mate of mine losing his flat (due to a developer buying the whole block and throwing all out) showed me.

        Even after months in a cockroach ridden, overcrowded, damp and noisy boarding house, he was left waiting and waiting. Only finally involving someone from the media brought about a “sudden change of mind” in the manager at the HNZ office he was registered with!!!

  4. Molly 4

    Just posted this on Open Mike but relevant for this post – and – I don’t know how to link directly to my comment – so –

    Create a different model than one that can systematically get destroyed every time National gets in.

    Utilise the current National Govt Policy and HNZ sales to:

    1. Buy adjacent state houses in blocks to create small co-housing developments.
    2. Existing tenants can either buy or be assured a state housing rental when development finished.
    3. Develop the land in the style of cohousing in Denmark – increasing the density, but reducing the cost of individual houses and making common areas/facilities
    4. Rent the same number of dwellings to HNZ, sell others to those who want to buy, and if possible set up a couple of dwellings in perpetual affordable housing.

    Benefits & added potential:
    1. Cohousing is similar to how healthy Maori and Pasifika communities live, and allow for shared use of facilities – ie. one commercial laundry room, one lawnmower, car sharing.
    2. Small strong community networks are formed – stress levels go down, and time and energy for local solutions to other problems can result.
    3. Tie in the building of these small developments with on-site training and apprenticeships and you have the basis for good, local upskilling.
    4. If this is run with the support of multi-partisan and Auckland Council support, development loans can be applied for at low interest rates from the Reserve Bank. Potential owners at planning stage will already have a good amount of equity in the property by the time it gets to personal mortgage stage.
    5. The ideal areas for this kind of development to take place are the low value areas in Auckland – they also have the community networks that will increase the chance of success.

    Been thinking about this for a while….and come up with a couple more considerations:

    1. If this is done in South Auckland an apprenticeship education partnership with the Building Department at MIT could help implement it
    2. Current/potential owners are the developers – cuts out the middleman proportion of the house price.
    3. Sustainable building methods that require high labour but have good environmental outcomes ie. earth building, cob – can be done by residents and apprentices upskilling both, while keeping costs down.
    4. Requires a team of consultants – designers, builders and planners – that will only get better with each and every development. This is the practical support that could be provided by Auckland Council and the government.
    5. A sustainable business model making standard fittings could result.
    6. National has a history of offering state housing as development sites – this makes the current residents the developers…

    • Ad 4.1

      Molly I would recommned if you are in Auckland that you drive out and see the Hobsonville development. That was a development corporation set up by central government on public land. It was supposed to have pepper-potted state rentals, and also “affordable” units within it, but they were killed by Key.

      But what you do have there is a well coordinated small town with health, police, education, public transport and sustainability features built in from the beginning. Unfortuantely that initiative began under a Labour government with the progressive Waitakere City Council, and I’ve not seen anything as good since.

      Instead we have a draft Unitary Plan in Auckland which actively discourages the kind of cooperation you are promoting, and special housing legislation going through in which greenfield sites will be plonked somewhere with little coordiantion whatsoever.

      Whatever Labour is planning, it will have to reverse a whole lot of that momentum built up over 6 years.

      • Molly 4.1.1

        I have seen the Hobsonville development, and the Salvation Army has written up that debacle in their Adding it all up report. Ngati Whatua is doing something similar to cohousing – but with development focus and prices start at around $700K

        Cohousing development is MUCH smaller than Hobsonville. Denmark has found the maximum limits are approx 50 adults/150 residents. Their optimum minimum size is 15 adults. This size seems to promote better connections between the households while making sure there is enough energy and diversity to thrive. Land area can be only 1- 1.5 acres, so 4-6 adjacent state houses, a different scale to Hobsonville.

        In community work I have been doing, I have been following the Unitary Plan closely, and compared to our Franklin District Plan – cohousing development will be easier under the proposed new rules. I consider the Special Housing Accords to be a concession to the bullying tactics of the government – and as you say, are completely at odds with affordable housing and good long-term planning.

        John Abrams, from South Mountain Company on Martha’s Vineyard in the US has written a book about his company which progressed from a design and build partnership, to a cooperative ownership/management model. Over the last couple of decades they have trialled and designed successful models for perpetual affordable housing, cohousing, relocations etc. Worth reading just to see how small projects can make a difference – The Company We Keep.

        Also, my sister is part of the management team for a non-profit affordable housing development company in Australia. They are not government funded, and they compete against private developers, but they have gone from fairly small developments in the last decade to much larger. So, development of affordable housing is achievable if the skills sets are in place.

        The component that is missing is professional and development advice. The developers are the owners/tenants and they are also the future residents, they will only go through this process once. A specialised consultant team that goes through the planning, design and development financing process is something that could be provided by a Labour Government or Auckland Council that is serious about creating communities along with affordable housing.

        Mana Housing policy is already halfway there.

        • Ad 4.1.1.1

          From the report you mentioned:

          “Swedes have tended to live in flats which are either cooperatively owned or rented from a not-for-profit landlord, while Australians either own houses or rent privately-owned houses. Kemeny suggests this difference in tenure leads to quite different lifestyle choices around where people choose to live, the mix of private and public space they have around them, and how they allocate their lifetime earnings to paying for their housing. From these suggestions, Kemeny contends that there is a link between more densely-built urban environments that make more use of public facilities (such as space and transport) and which
          are tenured through some form of corporately-owned rental housing, and less densely built suburban environments that are characterised by individual ownership with greater use of private space and private transport.”

          This if true (and the public submissions reaction to the draft-draft Unitary Plan tells me it is), says you won’t change much tilting at an entire culture of property-based entitlement. For me a more apposite comparison is the 1980s book from Mike Davis City of Quartz, which details well the contests between residents groups that ensured that noting in LA was built over 2 storeys for miles and miles. It’s a great analogue for Auckland and its politics – writ large right now.

          People such as your sister who rail against the degree of force are heroic. They will make a local difference, but not a policy-scale difference. I want to see Urban Development Authorities, Hobsonville-like partnerships, and other public sector-driven instruments that enable policy to partner with private capital drivers. There are large blocks of brownfields land we all know of across New Zealand cities that need attention, and don’t have to buy into the poor-quality construction standards and mezzanine-finance ripoffs of the previous decade.

          Mana-scale outcomes I am sure are rgeat, but what I am watching is the structural moves Mr Twyford will respond with.

          • Molly 4.1.1.1.1

            I too would like to see hard and fast policy at national government level for affordable housing – and communities. Small projects such as those I outlined will not negate that – but may be a way to provide relief at local levels.

            The reality is – a good national strategy will not happen immediately – or even within the forseeable future.

            Meanwhile, those tracts of HNZ land that are released – are being released to private developers – and are gone forever. If small developments – such as those I outlined above – are supported – then those policies that are currently decimating our HNZ services and communities – can be offset by some of those communities remaining. And by use of the cohousing model – (where the property is owned by the collective and the houses are owned by the individual) – keep those communities stable despite future changes in policy.

            Noted the reference to Australia – they actually have an affordable housing strategy… we don’t. And while this inaction remains – we continue to have state housing being used as a political punching bag everytime National gets in.

            We have communities needing local solutions now. There are opportunities that have been put in place for developers – that can be grasped by communities.

            • Ad 4.1.1.1.1.1

              What do you see as deficient with Kiwibuild as a national housing policy?I view it as a bold breakthrough.

              Also, I don’t believe that just because a state house is sold it is gone forever. The Public Works Act does not need amending to acquire further land for housing purposes, or indeed for urban renewal purposes.

              Are you aware of any cohousing examples in New Zealand that are operating? The only one I can think of is the earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood in Auckland’s Ranui.

              • Molly

                The only cohousing I know of is that in Ranui as well, that also benefitted from Council funding in order to build. I’m just suggesting that instead of these incentives or grants being taken up by private developers and individuals, some housing initiatives for social housing could take advantage of these when they occur.

                Why don’t we have more in NZ? Probably because of the persistence of the 1/4 acre dream. I would only be speculating. But Denmark only began their cohousing models in the 70’s and now have hundreds of these communities operating in all kinds of built environments.

                For affordable housing these models work successfully overseas – the fact that NZ hasn’t attempted it may be a lack of innovation and nerve on the part of politicians. Perhaps it is due to the fact that cohousing is developed by those intending to live on the property – rather than professional developers. A lot of Kiwi’s don’t like the thought of sharing space and property.

                However, cohousing – as I said – is in line with Maori and Pasifika cultural living styles, and looks to create community alongside housing. This can be done very expensively – or very cheaply. For me, the social housing that is provided using this model allows such as collaborative consumption of other items – such as cars, childcare, whiteware etc and does not only provide shelter – and provides social networks and support as well.

                Kiwibuild as a national policy is not flawed in intent, but may be in delivery. Affordable housing is more than building. Houses need to be affordable to live in, in terms of energy use, and access to amenities, activities and work. No use living in a house in the boondocks if it costs you $200/wk in transport costs. Also, vast areas of housing without planning can result in ill-conceived and built environments that do not encourage healthy communities.

                I don’t think that I’ve suggested it as a replacement for a national housing policy – I am advocating for an additional strategy at local level, not a panacea for all housing issues in NZ.

                There are opportunities available in policies like the Southern Initiative, Sustainability grants and HNZ sales that are currently being taken up by private developers – why not existing communities?

              • Rogue Trooper

                Agree

          • Rogue Trooper 4.1.1.1.2

            do not agree

      • greywarbler 4.1.2

        Ad

        Instead we have a draft Unitary Plan in Auckland which actively discourages the kind of cooperation you are promoting, and special housing legislation going through in which greenfield sites will be plonked somewhere with little coordiantion whatsoever.

        The ‘plonked’ subdivision far from facilities and with no amenities, was a feature in the past and has been assessed as bad and roundly condemned. There were expectations that lessons would be taken from that so it never happened again. Hadeehah.

        It is so naive to not recognise that the Nacts never learn anything and never let good research findings get in the way of quick, profitable, simple common-sense solutions for problems that can be flourished and implemented within a single government term. Look we are magicians, and will produce a rabbit from this empty top hat in only minutes!

  5. ScottGN 5

    Nick Smith is taking heavy fire from all sides with this half-baked policy. I must say it’s a rare day that I find myself agreeing with John Banks but he has a point when he says that first home buyers in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch will feel aggrieved to see people in provincial centres getting a pretty generous leg up from the government while their aspirations wither under theses new Reserve Bank rules.

  6. Sable 6

    Hmmm afraid that building new homes in central cities might jeopardise the capital gains on their mansions the Tories have come up with the genius plan of sending the peasants out to live in the boondocks. They don’t have jobs to go to and never will so what does it matter where they live, right? Give them $20K that should shut them up and hey, they may be so grateful they will even vote for us. Yay!

    Wankers….

    • greywarbler 6.1

      Sable
      But hold on. That idea of sending people to live in the boondocks completely contradicts recent social policy that has forced people to leave the cheaper boondocks because there were no jobs there in that region, and return to the more expensive cities.

      There in the concrete jungle there are established trails for the tramps (not trampers, that is a different cultural phenomenon) to follow between possible employers. Or maybe public facilities where they can do their personal PR using computers or such, just to show how modern they are, prepared for this new age of vital, thrusting, busy commerce offering work opportunities for capable people with similar descriptions keen to offer 110 per cent to their employer.

      Is this what an oxymoron is? It’s such an interesting word that pops into my head when I hear government policy these days. Or perhaps it’s just the moron part I should be applying.

    • Rogue Trooper 6.2

      This, does not follow

  7. bad12 7

    Bravo Nick Smith, a 6 million dollar publicity and propaganda campaign that will have gone down in the bigger cities like a lead balloon,

    The sad fact is that these HousingNZ properties could have all been tenanted by simply offering them to long term beneficiaries in the bigger cities,

    It is tho probably a good idea that Smith didn’t think of this in His rush to try and con the electorate that He is doing something about affordable housing as He would have been flicking off the houses vacated in the cities instead,

    Even the long dead ACT Party has come back to life long enough to criticize Smith over this latest sell off of the HousngNZ stock…

  8. fambo 8

    Doesn’t matter what the problem is, the answer is always sell a state owned asset. Anyone spot a pattern?

  9. Intrinsicvalue 9

    The basis of Labours housing policy is a CGT, and restrictions on foreign ownership. These policies have failed everywhere they have been tried, most notable in Australia. The basis of National’s housing policy is to release more housing onto the market, including substantial amounts of affordable housing. That will work because it is simple and sensible economics.

    [karol: Intrinsicvalue, aren’t you permanently banned?]

    • ScottGN 9.1

      You’ve conveniently left out a central plank of Labour’s policy which is to build 10,000 houses a year.

      • Intrinsicvalue 9.1.1

        Oh yes, shouldn’t forget the impossible should we? I must have been too busy rolling in laughter at DC’s latest blunder – using a yuppie wanna be property mogul as an illustration of the downtrodden! Hilarious.

        • ScottGN 9.1.1.1

          You guys have become totally fixated on this so-called misstep by Cunliffe. Guess what? Nobody else is really. National is getting a right butt kicking on housing issues and you know it.

        • Rogue Trooper 9.1.1.2

          of no intrinsic value, at all!

        • Lanthanide 9.1.1.3

          “Oh yes, shouldn’t forget the impossible should we? ”

          What’s so impossible about building 10,000 houses a year, exactly?

          You’ll note that National now have their own policy of building 39,000 in 3 years, or 13,000 houses a year. Except National aren’t even going to attempt to make them ‘affordable’.

          At least if Labour tries, and fails, they’re better than National who didn’t even try.

  10. Delia 10

    This is another one of those housing schemes with limited take up, will run for a limited time and be forgotten about.

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    17 hours ago
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    1 day ago

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