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Building Nations

Written By: - Date published: 8:15 am, August 16th, 2018 - 72 comments
Categories: economy, Economy, employment, infrastructure, labour, overseas investment, phil twyford - Tags:

The Building Nations event hosted by Infrastructure New Zealand, held in Auckland is happening on Thursday and Friday this week. Here’s the agenda.

It was sold out months ago, at $2,000+ per head. It’s the peak event for construction and infrastructure funders including banks, global top-twenty constructors and utilities, top consultancies and construction lawyers and other service industries, officials galore from Ministries and public commercial entities, and of course politicians major and minor.

Phil Twyford is the keynote this morning. Sure, it’s one conference among many in a calendar. But it’s quite a gathering.

He laid out the challenge to them all: this government will wrestle with transport and real estate as one, towards rebuilding large parts of cities, at scale, on behalf of whole percentages of New Zealand’s deprived population. Has has specific governance machineries in mind to do it.

It is ambitious, organized, and about as risky as the state’s interventions get. The big question is how to spend the $28b effectively, efficiently, gaining as many policy multipliers as can be got.

There are implied rebukes in there of the “business confidence” foolishness.

No more than perhaps five Australasian firms can take this set of challenges on. It will need the Spanish, the Chinese, the Germans and the French to contest – as well as any local who can still lift a spade.

To give a sense of the challenges, at the NZTA light rail briefing last week, the room was packed with over 200 people representing the biggest and the best the world has to offer. But NZTA had little fresh to add, and are nowhere near a procurement process. Nor any sign yet of the mechanisms to integrate light rail with housing redevelopment into attractive deals. Ripe for an impatient interventionist Minister.

HLC (Housing Land Community) and HNZ (Housing New Zealand) are rocketing away with their redevelopment challenges. They will be coming out with a preferred decade-long alliance for civil works in the next few weeks.

Every era is different, every context needs fresh instruments and policies. It’s not the same as Michael Joesph Savage’s time.

But as ever in this country, the left succeeds for people when it corrals and teams the largest businesses to common ends. It’s now.

With these people around me here.

This government knows it will stand or fall on whether citizens get real dividends within one term from all this expenditure, all these deals. Once elected, that’s what you rise to.

Most in this conference room today will make fast money, and slow money, through boomtime and downturn. From what I see here, they can see it will be worth their while – if their risk machinery is sufficiently tuned, their capacity-engines gunned, their commercial partnerships trusting and profitable for many years. And … and … if this government lasts.

Phil Twyford is the Minister confronting, engaging and tilting the whole of NZ real estate capitalism. Apart from real estate brokers, that is the sum of what is here. Row upon row, this is the core of the useful business-government relationship.

Beyond redistribution, what this sixth Labour-led government can do is build.

To be honest it’s exciting as government gets.

72 comments on “Building Nations ”

  1. Gosman 1

    And it is a recipe for being a complete flop. Already there is resistance building to what is required.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/106252851/550-lettuces-if-fertile-pukekohe-land-turned-into-houses

    Given the Greens are anti-development on Green field sites the Government will be massively constrained in what it can effectively do

    • Ad 1.1

      The cabbages are revolting.

      And your kind are just not in the room.

      • Gosman 1.1.1

        Do you think rural land in Pukekohe should be protected from Urban development?

        • Ad 1.1.1.1

          Are their cabbage leaves enough shelter for the homeless under bridges?

          Three years of highest homelessness in the OECD.

          • Gosman 1.1.1.1.1

            Do you think that farmland near Pukekohe should be protected – yes or no?

            • Ad 1.1.1.1.1.1

              That depends on whether it is better to protect the homeless under bridges more.

              In my view that is the more pressing problem for New Zealand.

              At the moment the Unitary Plan has specific provisions about sensitive land. So of course, that issue is not binary and the regulatory framework is sensitive to it.

              • Gosman

                And I agree with you. However the problem for Phil Twyford is that a lot of people support the idea of protecting the farmland. That is why this is a recipe for a cluster f##k

                • Ad

                  Bill Cashmore the Auckland Deputy Mayor whose family have been farming inthe south of Auckland since the 1870s, was also speaking this morning and had a completely different view to you.

                  The Unitary Plan and the Auckland Plan hearings heard all these complaints ad nauseum.

                  But when it came to making money, the Winstones and all the others in the Franklin area sold out and fucking ran.

                  All the way to the fucking bank.

                  All that matters in the end is the right amount of money at the right time. I’m expecting a grand paen to the history of the Pukekohe Onion in a minute.

                  • dukeofurl

                    Winstones ? Dont you mean Stephensons and wasnt the sellout in Drury not Pukekohe

                  • Molly

                    Since I live here, it would may be of interest to note that many of those primary producers out here actively sought landzone changes.

                    I know of some longtime growers who have participated in subdivision for residential purposes, now complaining that their son cannot easily find leasehold land for continuing the family business. Also, they are against further conversion, but not necessarily when it is friends or business associates. Therein lies the problem.

                    Bill Cashmore may talk well, but I’ve noted that his conversation and conviction can seem to relate a different perspective depending on the audience. Advocated quite passionately for a fencing fund for farmers to be provided by Auckland Council though, which it was, without requirement for any standards compliance.

            • Kevin 1.1.1.1.1.2

              Are you saying farmers should not be allowed to realise on the one major asset they own?

              Supply and demand, that IS the market Gos.

              • Gosman

                Of course I’m not. Hence why I oppose protecting farmland from being converted to urban housing.

                • left_forward

                  Yeah good one Gos, let’s build our houses on our most fertile land!
                  Meh – who needs planning?

              • Jilly Bee

                As a relative newcomer to the Matamata area, one of the first things I noticed was farmland which is now leased out or purchased by Willcox (potatoes) and whichever firm grows and harvests onions – many hectares are now market gardening as has been in the Pukekohe area for yonks. Actually we were cautioned against purchasing on the north side of Matamata as it becomes a continuous dust bowl during the onion harvest.

          • Stunned Mullet 1.1.1.1.2

            ‘Australia, the Czech Republic and New Zealand report a relatively large incidence of homelessness, and this is partly explained by the fact that these countries adopt a broad definition of homelessness.

            In Australia people are considered as homeless if they have “no other options to acquire safe and secure housing are without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodation with a household or living in uninhabitable housing”.

            In the Czech Republic the term homeless covers “persons sleeping rough
            (roofless), people who are not able to procure any dwelling and hence live in accommodation for the homeless, and people living in insecure accommodation and people staying in conditions which do not fulfil the minimum standards of living […]”.

            In New Zealand homelessness is defined as “living situations where people with no other options to acquire safe and secure housing: are without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodation with a household or living in uninhabitable housing.” ‘

            • andrew murray 1.1.1.1.2.1

              you do see what’s implicit in your comment?

            • Ad 1.1.1.1.2.2

              You can read those definitions out to the families in cars in the park.
              It’ll be sure to warm them up.

              • dukeofurl

                Would those people living in cars be suprised to hear they are classified the same as ‘sharing accommodation with a household’, ie roof over their head , beds to sleep in, washing facilities.

            • Gabby 1.1.1.1.2.3

              You have a problem with those definitions stunted munter?

          • Siobhan 1.1.1.1.3

            Access to cheap vegetables is an issue for all people on benefits and low wages, having cabbages flown in from Aussie or grown hydroponically would be a disaster for people on limited/no budgets. Feeding programs and food banks are also fairly centralised, and those few lost and lonely carrots and onions you get in the average food bank parcel would completely disappear if we relied even more on imported veggies.
            We need an inspired team of architects and urban planners to design human friendly housing that goes upwards…not outwards.

            Not to mention, shoving the poor to the fringes of a city creates even more issues around transport and air pollution.

            Surely, living poor in the city, when you can walk to centralised health and welfare services beats trying to scramble together the bus fare.

            Building future slums on prime fertile soil is something a Government looking for permanent positive change should absolutely put an end to.

            • Ad 1.1.1.1.3.1

              Don’t bother falling for complaints from the usual suspects.

              Those same usual suspects have held on to their land and sold it to housing developers when they felt the price was right. You can see it all through Karaka and Pukekohe now. They took their cheque and ran.

              At the moment we subsidise the housing market through social welfare to the tune of $3 billion per year. We should expect every single city in New Zealand to have fresh developments around it.

              Just to put your mind at rest however, the new Urban Development Agency will be primarily concentrating on brownfield and inner city developments.

              • Siobhan

                Those new housing developments will for the most part still eventually end up in the hands of landlords. The Bill for propping up the profit of private businesses ie landlords, will keep growing. I personally do not see any policies that will reverse the trend of landlordism.
                the Market is King. We are a long long way from a Government willing to end that particular bubble once and for all.

                Even the houses aimed at the first home buyer through kiwibuild, seem to be designed to prop up and encourage ‘The Market, hence there is only a requirement to own them for 3 years before you can sell them for a nice increase in capital gains..

                Turning AK into LA is a crappy future for us all.
                Those fresh developments tend not to stay fresh very long, especially given we insist on houses that have a “minimum lifespan requirements of just 50 years for the building’s structure and 15 years for the durability of the exterior cladding.” . And we wonder why we end up with Global warming.

                ***Really, that is an issue that should be key in this conference. Stop building McMansions, or McApartments (?). Lets go crazy and build houses that don’t start falling to bits and looking crap before the mortgage gets paid off.***

                My mind is not at rest at the thought of the UDA given this Government’s commitment to historically low spending and debt.

                No one is suggesting we pay money to people who ‘took the cheque and ran’. I’m not even sure how that would work. They’ve gone, and they are probably dead keen to invest that cash in the sprawl of Auckland.

              • Molly

                Better planning documents were not provided by the Unitary Plan, that would have considerably helped with housing Aucklanders. Not provision of housing for investors – either here or overseas.

                I have little confidence that unless the essentials are tackled ie. changes to planning, social housing provided as a long term tenancy, improved taxation and rates policies etc. that the housing crisis for many Aucklanders will be solved.

    • lprent 1.2

      Gosman…

      Is it my imagination, or have I started noticing you getting first comment on a lot of posts recently? And in arguably these seem to just be diversion comments largely unrelated to the posts.

      Get the same in Open Mike with the early morning birds..

      I may have to write a diversion of the diverters routine. Easy enough to do. Just add a random number of seconds between 0 and 2600 seconds to the time stamp of any top ‘first’ comment on a post.

      I’d be amused by people gaming that.

  2. adam 2

    Wow two threads your trying to derail with your hard core ideological puffry gosman.

    Funny if that half baked ideology you keep pushing actually worked, there would be no housing crisis, because the hand of the market would have fixed it. There are faires at the end of the garden too mate.

    • Gosman 2.1

      The problem with housing is due to over regulation not with a failure of the market. In fact the market is acting exactly as you would expect in such a situation.

      • millsy 2.1.1

        So how are you going to force all these landowners to build houses then?

        • Gosman 2.1.1.1

          Make it easy for them to turn non-residential land in to residential land and allow builders to build without too much red tape.

          • Kevin 2.1.1.1.1

            And we all know what happened last time that builders had free reign. Leaky building anyone?

            • Gosman 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Then you need to ensure builders take responsibility for doing a good job. A decent insurance scheme should enable that. All house builders should be required to purchase insurance around the build quality of a house that will last beyond the lifetime of their company. This will also reduce the need for building inspectors from the council as the Insurers themselves are going to want to make sure the work is of a good quality.

      • Bill 2.1.2

        So new builds and current housing stock are both up to a standard required to withstand the climatic effects of climate change? And if they aren’t, then that’s because there has been too much regulation preventing “the market” from providing suitably insulated and configured housing with, of course, requisite shade factored in (architectural design and suitable tree plantings) alongside the ubiquitous roll out of autonomous power generation (solar panels etc)?

        You’re right enough that “the market” is acting exactly as expected – “fuck it all and gimme the cash”.

        • Gosman 2.1.2.1

          Allow developers to build both Climate change friendly and unfriendly options and advertise the resulting properties to people. Then they can decide if they want a cheaper house that won’t cope with Climate change or a more expensive one that will.

          • dukeofurl 2.1.2.1.1

            Do you have an air conditioned car Gosman ?

            of course you do , as there is no other kind. Driver comfort in all climatic conditions is seen as essential. Why not houses.

      • adam 2.1.3

        Sheesh Gossy straight to the ideological talking point you lot have been running with for months.

        Calling BS. Utter and complete BS. You lot are greedy, and therein lies the problem. Regulation so people don’t die in newly built houses is needed exactly because of muppets like you, who did build houses which killed people.

        You know the worst part of your ideology Gossy, you worse than a Stalinist in your blind faith, and let’s face it, Stalinists are a collective of very sick puppies.

        • Gosman 2.1.3.1

          Except the regulations protecting people from “dying” (how many deaths were occurring by the way?) have meant that houses aren’t being built quickly enough and now we have people being forced to live in even worse conditions than before. I believe it is called the law of unintended consequences.

          • adam 2.1.3.1.1

            Now your just an ideological hack at’s it’s vuluge worse. You say people should live in bad condition, because that what the market produces, and it’s better than being homeless. Which by the way, is what the market (as you lot have constructed it) produces.

            But thanks for proving my point of you having ideological blinkers on.

          • Bill 2.1.3.1.2

            how many deaths were occurring by the way?

            Paris. Heatwave of a few years back. Numbered in the thousands if my memory serves me correctly.

            Hundreds in the uk over the past few months.

            Back to thousands in India and Pakistan over the past few years.

            And all of the above just the official figures attributed to excess heat…

          • KJT 2.1.3.1.3

            How many people left with horrendous repair costs, due to the last ideological, deregulation and privatisation burp?
            Christchurch. The effects of cheap labour cowboys coming home to roost, as we speak.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 2.1.4

        Ah yes – the housing problem is due to too much (governmental, public service and local body) regulation and red tape. Leaky homes, anyone? No worries, the ‘market’ will fix it!

        To market, to market to buy a fat pig

  3. Adrian Thornton 3

    @Gosman,
    NZ Household debt is out of control, NZ is becoming a nation of debt slaves, which I know sit’s in fine within National Party ideology, but then National have always left NZ with more debt and/or decrepit and unmaintained public services/infrastructure along with all sorts huge social problems to fix when they leave the beehive.

    Fair weather friends would be the kindest way to describe National…

  4. bruce 4

    Why look at farmland far from jobs and existing infrastructure, why not look at all the car yards and other underutilised space, Station Rd in Penrose or between New North Rd and the Railway line from Mt Albert shops to Pak n Save for a couple, low rise and terrace houses . Whatever the current owners want for the land would be cheaper than developing green fields miles from anywhere.

    • Ad 4.1

      And indeed they are doing exactly that.

      The Minister bought 30 hectares from Unitec in April, and has his eyes on bunches more areas within Auckland.

      HLC is also in process of redeveloping large parts of Northcote, Mt Roskill, Oranga, and Mangere. It’s by far the biggest urban redevelopment programme we’ve ever seen.

      Anyone who’s a member of an inner city golf club should also expect plans to start being drawn up.

      And all of that before a single lettuce leaf gets pulled from the ground in Auckland’s deepest rural south.

      • Molly 4.1.1

        Pukekohe is undergoing immense greenfields development, with more on the cards. I don’t know where you are getting your information from.

        • Ad 4.1.1.1

          Not by the state. Which is what was supposed.

          • Molly 4.1.1.1.1

            Until I became disillusioned, I went to a few of these public housing forums. There is a failure of the national government to direct councils to address the housing crisis in an effective manner – not more of the same.

            The state and council (via Panuku Developments) are selling off public lands, that could be developed to provide social housing by themselves. Instead they are entering into PPP agreements, which assume some form of private profit must be made in order to deliver housing, instead of looking at it from the perspective of housing our own.

          • Gosman 4.1.1.1.2

            The State is not building many houses that I am aware of. Most of the extra housing is being provided by the private sector as most housing has always been in NZ.

  5. RedLogix 5

    Another great OP Ad. Hope the conference goes well for you; it really does sound inspiring; at least as much as these things ever get 🙂

  6. Stuart Munro 6

    I see the problem as partly one of industry experience and culture. Our construction sector is relatively volatile, and characterized by broken promises and bankruptcies that never reach the perpetrators, who frequently decamp with the money.

    Were I to try to commission a four story apartment building – the height of ordinariness in many countries, I could not approach many NZ companies with confidence. Twyford has his work cut out. Doing an infinitely better job than Nick Smith isn’t particularly taxing, but resolving the housing crisis will take decades – it took decades to stuff everything up.

    • Gosman 6.1

      Yes ever since the RMA was passed.

      • Stuart Munro 6.1.1

        I think even you will remember cowboy firms before then.

        If it were just the RMA the Gnats would’ve fixed everything by non-enforcement – same as they did for any number of other inconvenient laws.

        The RMA didn’t create the leaky homes for example.

        You need a better example to validate your prejudices. More than one really.

      • dukeofurl 6.1.2

        RMA ?

        We had the Town and Country Planning Act before that…. we werent Cambodia you know

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    It was sold out months ago, at $2,000+ per head.

    Because having obviously poor people having a say is obviously not what they want.

    This is not how we build a democracy/functioning society. Great way to build a dictatorship/plutocracy though.

    No more than perhaps five Australasian firms can take this set of challenges on.

    Our government could do it all – just need the MoW reinstituted. Even the big foreign firms will just be using local resources and so aren’t needed and just become another siphon of money from the country.

    Most in this conference room today will make fast money, and slow money, through boomtime and downturn.

    So, they’re bludgers.

    • Ad 7.1

      Its a for-profit event. No, it’s not free. But it is the most powerful intersection of politicians, policy, and infrastructure policy around.

      The MoW will never be reinstated. Each historical context is different. Instead NZTA and HLC and the upcoming UDA will do a similar set of tasks.

      This wasn’t the entrepreneurial set today. This was the people who join stuff up, fund it, and make it happen.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        Yeah, fully anti-democratic.

        Quoting Why we can’t afford the rich:

        Yet challenging big business is the last thing neoliberal governments want to do, for they are its servant and defender. One of the features of the neoliberal era is the attempt by governments to make individuals responsible for providing for themselves where previously the state did this. It’s clearest in attempts to reduce state provision of education and health and to blame the unemployed for job shortages. Some sociologists, never afraid of coining an ugly word, call this ‘responsibilisation’. Treating our response to global warming as one of individuals becoming more responsible in their choices is entirely consistent with this. In this way, governments can avoid blame if things don’t work out at the same time as they not only avoid challenging big business but deliver new customers to them through privatisation. Focusing purely on individual consumers depoliticises things.

        • Ad 7.1.1.1

          The conference participants are all there for public sector clients. Representing public expenditure and public assets. $28b of transport funding, $24b of Ak Council family funding, about $12b of housing land and funding.

          There was also discussion about taxing property owners in a variety of instruments.

          I know you love your little book. You like quoting verses out of it ike a Sunday School teacher. Avert your eyes, there’s actual money being spent.

          You’re really bad at understanding the intersection of public policy with the world, and you make no effort to do so.

          This was not a conference you would understand.

          • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.1.1

            The conference participants are all there for public sector clients.

            Proving that the government has the necessary scale to do this in house. That being the case we could do a better job or save 10% or possibly more if profit taking.

            You’re really bad at understanding the intersection of public policy with the world, and you make no effort to do so.

            I understand it fully including how the rich steal from the rest of us and take away our ability to govern ourselves.

            I know you love your little book.

            And that’s just you refusing to even think about how things could be different and better.

      • RedLogix 7.1.2

        Exactly. It’s a mistake to underestimate the personal energy, skills and competency that it takes to get things done at this scale. I know it sounds a bit Randian, but us despised engineers really do make the modern world tick. Not on our own of course, but without us it would be a very primitive place indeed.

        • Draco T Bastard 7.1.2.1

          I would be surprised if there was an engineer at that meeting. They would all have been bureaucrats.

          And I even accept the need for them as well – to a limited degree.

  8. Brutus Iscariot 8

    The issue of the Pukekohe soils is a national security as well as an environmental issue. These factors should override any other concerns or considerations, legitimate though they may be.

  9. CHCOff 9

    The foreign buyers ban is a good start.

    Essentially the thing is, ultimately, in principle and practise, that living in a house is ownership of that home. That’s the standard which all the wonky political haggling needs to be subservient to when it comes to economics.

    Then New Zealand can be a real progressive world leader showcasing the benefits of market supply and demand, as society moves away from the rorting lobbying model to that of added value lobbying calling the shots via the great and efficient power of capitalistic democracy.

    NZ1st!

  10. coodale 10

    If the lifespan of these houses is truely a laughable 50 years, why not a 49 year lease on the land, govt holds land ownership in a transition title, ear-marked for return to agriculture. They could also impose garden as major part of housing development.

    Let me guess, we’ve signed a deal with Oz, to say we cant use that form of ownership law? Time to bypass the country and go to the sate govts? They trying to trick us into joining Oz?

    49 year leases for agriculture, the right can call it the t-pee camp policy.

  11. eco maori 11

    This Government will be in for more than one term enough said

  12. Jenny 12

    Busting Nations

    It was sold out months ago, at $2,000+ per head. It’s the peak event for construction and infrastructure funders including banks, global top-twenty constructors and utilities, top consultancies and construction lawyers….*

    *And all the other bottom feeders gathering at the smell of government largess. J.

    One thing is for sure. At $2,000+ per head, all the orphan volunteer agencies struggling to deal with homelessness at the grass roots level, will not be getting a seat at this glittering table.

    It is ambitious, organized, and about as risky as the state’s interventions get. The big question is how to spend the $28b effectively……

    risky as it gets“, is right. As the Ebert’s collapse shows. Not to mention how similar large housing infrastructure schemes ended up in Ireland and Spain

    Largely because, yes, while there is a housing crisis, there is no housing shortage.

    So hang on a minute, before we go spending $28b on corporate welfare for the faltering building sector.

    We need to ask ourselves; Do we really want our politicians sucking up to the private sector, or do we want Courageous and Creative independent thinking Civic Leaders that dare to challenge the market driven housing crisis?

    If our Central and Local Government Politicians were truly serious about addressing the housing crisis….,

    Maybe the the first thing they should do, (before putting huge social effort and resources into building lots more private dwellings, which first off, lines the pockets of the developers and land speculators, and in the case of Pukekohe and Paerata developments, eats up irreplaceable agricultural land, while adding to the Southern motorway congestion woes) – Our political leaders could be doing what Vancouver’s Courageous Civic Leaders are doing to deal with the housing crisis.

    No Right Turn: Dealing with ghost homes
    Notices and Features – The Standard, August 4th, 2017

    How to persuade the world’s wealthiest people not to leave properties empty is a conundrum that is not confined to London – other major cities around the globe have also been grappling with the problem of buy-to-leave.

    Higher rates of tax for owners and buyers seem to be the preferred choice. In Vancouver, where an estimated 20,000 properties were lying empty all or much of the year, a new tax on empty homes was introduced at the start of this year. The city is now charging 1% of the value of any property left empty for at least six months a year. Owners must declare that this is the case, or face fines of up to $10,000 a day if they do not and are found out. On a property worth £500,000 the annual bill is £5,000 and as the property rises in value, so does the penalty for leaving it unused.

    In the days running up to the first taxes kicking in, six months into the year, local media reported that homeowners were caught in a “scramble to rent”, or considering selling up to avoid the tax. The response suggests that the threat of taxation was having the desired effect.

    Which is what we want: we want houses to be homes for people to live in, not gold bars for the rich. If they want to stockpile wealth, they can do it in a way which doesn’t fuck up the rest of our lives, thanks.

    The ghost house epidemic and the invisible hand
    Anthony Robins – The Standard, June 13th, 2016

    ‘Ghost houses’ hit Auckland renting market

    Ghost houses aren’t haunted, but could prove to be the stuff of nightmares for would-be renters in Auckland’s overheating housing market.

    A ONE News investigation has revealed houses across our largest city are being bought and deliberately left empty by investors who refuse to rent them out, instead looking to sell them for huge profits without the hassle of finding tenants in the interim.

    Building and Housing MinisterNick Smith doesn’t think the number of ghost houses is rising, and there is no way of knowing how many of Auckland’s 22,000 unoccupied properties are being deliberately left empty [my emphasis].

    However census figures show the percentage of unoccupied dwellings in some desirable Auckland suburbs has surged in the past 10 years, with more than one in 10 Takapuna homes empty. …

    One year later:

    Rise of the ghost homes – More than 33,000 Auckland dwellings officially classified empty

    More than 33,000 Auckland dwellings are officially classified empty as the city grapples with a crisis of affordable housing and homelessness.

    Auckland’s 6.6 per cent vacancy rate is higher than either Sydney (5.2 per cent) or Melbourne (4.8 per cent), where there has been an uproar over “ghost houses” deliberately left empty by speculators trading on a soaring market. …

    I don’t know whether the methods used to calculate the 2015 figure (22,000 unoccupied properties) and the 2016 figure (33,000 officially classified as empty) are directly comparable, but on the face of it that looks like a 50% increase in one year. At the very least I think it’s safe to say that the problem is getting worse, not better (and that Nick Smith, as usual, is utterly wrong).

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