Listening to the Nats on housing affordability, it’s pretty clear that their only plan is to allow more sprawl. So, let’s say this clearly: sprawl is expensive, not cheap, and it is not lack of housing but over-investment in house price speculation that leads to high prices. National’s ‘solution’ is for the country to needlessly spend tens of billions in infrastructure, oil, and travel time while doing nothing about the cause of expensive housing.
Bill English himself has said that New Zealand hasn’t built affordable first homes since the 1970s. It’s a symptom of the over-investment in housing. Developers chasing maximum profit by building the most expensive houses they can (with the cheapest materials and standards – which is why it’s so worrying to see National, who caused the leaky homes crisis, talking about weakening standards again). Nothing in National’s plan will get affordable homes built. It will see expensive homes built on ‘cheap’ distant land with huge infrastructure and travel costs associated with them.
The real solution is new urbanism. The construction of high-quality, eco-friendly, modestly-sized houses and apartments in compact areas centred around public transport within cities’ existing limits. Costs can be brought down by using economies of scale rather than every house being a bespoke project. But who is going to build lots of low-profit, affordable homes? Not the private sector. It takes the public sector. Public investment in this kind of housing, and a rent to buy scheme to get people out of renting into homewonership is the way forward.
But National’s only answer is sprawl.