So Labour’s Kiwibuild programme is very popular, according to a small scale digipoll, as quoted by Mike Smith in his post ‘Labour’s popular housing policy‘. Also in that post, Mike Smith claims that Labour’s 2011 pre-election housing policy is still live, quoting from that policy as follows:
Labour will focus on new builds for any state house acquisitions, rather than purchasing existing properties, to increase the overall housing stock. Where possible new state houses will be built in accordance with the disability sector approved Lifemark standard for accessible, adaptable lifetime design.
However, having a quick look through Labour’s 2011 housing policy, I see a disconnect between Shearer’s Kiwibuild flagship policy, and the 2011 Housing policy. The section of Shearer’s conference speech on affordable housing is all about enabling more people onto the bottom rung of the housing ladder.
Owning your own home is a Kiwi ambition but for tens of thousands of New Zealanders it’s a dream that’s out of reach.
If there is one thing your newspaper tells you every day about life in New Zealand it’s this:
We have a housing problem. And it’s a deep seated problem.
If you’re a young person today, you look at the cost of houses and you despair.
For the first time, home ownership in Auckland has dropped below 60%.
However, the most urgent and deep seated affordable housing problem today is for low income renters: the kinds of paid and unpaid working people who were given state housing in the past, or those who could readily find affordable private rental accommodation. Nowhere in Shearer’s speech does he mention state housing.
In contrast the 2011 policy focuses most strongly on the urgent need to build state houses. The policy indicates the extent of the problem. While it says there is no one way to improve housing affordability, the policy begins focusing on the urgent need to increase the state housing stock. And, in a reference to the fifth Labour government, the policy states that state housing forms the foundation of an affordable housing across the board, but that had been achieved by that last Labour government:
Re-establishing a solid base of state housing was an important achievement of the Fifth Labour Government. From that base, we can consider how to move on, into solutions which will impact further on the enormous need for social housing.
However, while that government did make some inroads n resurrecting state housing, the above is an overestimate of what that it achieved. Furthermore, that foundation has been undermined extensively by our current NAct government.
The policy also states that there is a need to support the extension of community and social housing:
Labour will work with the community housing sector to develop it in ways that will see it complementing an increase in HNZC social housing stock through access to capital or land. See our “Housing affordability‟ policy for more details.
My memory of the MSM reports of Kiwibuild was that it was totally focused on increasing the stock of housing available for private purchase. This is certainly the case for Shearer’s conference speech. A quick search throws up articles reporting on Kiwibuild, all with no mention of state housing, as in the article on the poll showing 70% approval of Labour’s housing policy.
The housing policy was announced by Labour leader David Shearer at the party’s conference a month ago and Labour has promised to build 10,000 houses a year for the next 10 years for first-home buyers, aiming to sell them for less than $300,000 in high-demand areas such as Auckland, Tauranga and Queenstown. If there is high demand ballots may be needed.
Also see here, where Shearer claims a “new direction” for Labour. And here, where it is question whether the it is do-able to build the volume of houses Shearer plans for the private market. And that’s before any considerations of building more state houses. And here, with more questions on do-ability, although Brian Rudman does think it is do-able. The Kiwibuild policy involves a
partnership with the private sector, community agencies and local government , using the Housing New Zealand as the lead agency. It says the Crown is “the only player large enough to make a real difference to the home affordability crisis”.
And the article ends with this curious statement:
Labour’s publicity says the houses will be built on new land, or on existing developments, and by looking at “reconfiguring and subdividing some existing state house land as opportunities arise.”
Given that the article is focused on building homes for first home buyers to purchase, does this mean state housing land is to be used to build these new homes, rather than to build more state houses?
So, focusing on Labour’s 2011 Affordable Housing Policy, raises a number of uncomfortable questions and concerns, as well as those of do-ability:
Kiwibuild promotion seems to have been targeting the neoliberal establishment, with the urgent affordable state and rental housing crisis remaining in the realm of the unspeakable, or only talked about away from the glare of the MSM and corporate establishment.