Excellent speech from Andrew Little in Parliament yesterday, on the government’s willful blindness to the housing crisis.
ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. It is a great pleasure to speak at this particular point and ask the question that is on the lips of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders every day, and it is this: what is it about the housing crisis that this Government does not get?
Unlike the Minister of Finance, I get around a lot of New Zealand and a lot of places. Just in the last couple of weeks, hundreds of people turned out at Tauranga, and hundreds turned out at Whangarei—200 at Clyde last week alone. Everywhere I go, everyone I speak to, and everywhere I look, people are saying: “Why is it this Government does not get it about the housing crisis?”
Everyone is now affected by this Government’s neglect and negligence and dereliction when it comes to housing. It is not just about the out-of-control house prices in Auckland; it is also now about rents and rentals. It is not just rent in Auckland; it is rents right across the country, as people are finding. Hard-working New Zealanders are finding they cannot afford to pay their rent any more.
What a damning statistic—that we now find just 2 weeks ago that the average working family finds that what little pay increase it got last year was almost entirely eaten up in extra housing costs.
So New Zealand families last year were, on average, better off by—would you believe it—$2 a week. Just $2 a week, and that is before inflation. That is before the rising cost of food and other costs that households have to meet. No wonder we have people living no longer just in cars and garages but now in caravans.
And now it turns out that schools are so desperate they are going to teach kids in caravans. I do not what it is about this Government and caravans, and jamming people into places where they cannot live and cannot learn.
You know, this Government boasts that it is the social investment Government, and it says “We look at figures and we look at information and we have all the best data and we make a decision that answers the problem that we see.”
Well, what is it about the information about housing that this mob does not get? What is it about the one in five working New Zealanders who are now paying more than 50 percent of their take-home pay in accommodation that does not compel the Government to want to do something serious and meaningful about housing?
What is it about that figure about household incomes simply not keeping pace with the real rising cost of living that does not force it around that Cabinet table to say “You know what, Nick? You’ve got to do something else. You’ve got to do something better because what is happening now is not working.”?
What is it about 41,000 New Zealanders at least who do not even have a home they can call their own that does not make the Government want to do something different?
Well, Labour is going to come to the rescue. Labour has got the plan. Labour is here and we will build a hundred thousand affordable homes over 10 years, and we will build the workforce to go with it, and we will work with the landowners and the property developers, and whoever else we have to, with our affordable housing authority, and we build those homes.
We will get stuck into the speculators—the people who live overseas but want to own a home here because New Zealand is a fantastic place to own a home in even if you do not want to live in it. We are going to get stuck into them and we are going to do what many of our counterpart countries do around the world and say: “If you want to own a home here, you build a new home.”
And then we are going to go after those who get the tax break called negative gearing and we are going to say “You ain’t having that tax break any more.”
We are going to do something about that so that first-home owners, those struggling and striving to do what every New Zealander who has grown up believing they could do—that if they do the right things, work hard and save hard, they can buy their own home. They are going to get a look in, for once.
They are going to get a look in, because right now there is one party that is listening to New Zealanders right across the country. Whether it is Tauranga, Whangarei, Clive, the Botanical Gardens here in Wellington—everywhere I have gone there is one party that is listening to New Zealand, and it is the Labour Party.
New Zealanders are saying: “We want our dream back. We want our kids and our grandkids to have the opportunity that we had to own our own home, to have our own place, to put down our anchors, to have a place where we can raise our children with confidence, be part of strong communities, raise a strong family and live in a great prosperous, bounteous country that we are.”
That is the Kiwi Dream. It is the Labour dream, and we are putting it in place in September this year.