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Twyford on solutions to the housing crisis in Auckland

Written By: - Date published: 7:11 am, April 15th, 2016 - 41 comments
Categories: housing, labour, phil twyford - Tags: , , , , ,

As Nick Smith flounders about uselessly, here are extracts from Phil Twyford’s speech to the NZ Planning Institute on the housing crisis in Auckland [emphasis added at some points].

Speech to NZ Planning Institute conference

Fuelled by concern about unaffordable housing and falling home ownership, we’ve seen a vigorous public debate that has drawn in all the political parties, and a myriad of other voices from the property industry to ratepayers to Generation Zero, and planners of course are smack bang in the middle of this debate.

Two things are increasingly clear. First, pretending Auckland’s woes are inevitable or that the city is a victim of its own success, won’t wash. When our housing is less affordable than Tokyo, New York and London, and it takes 50 years to pay off the average home, something is seriously wrong.

There is no silver bullet. The mess housing is in is a result of multi-layered policy failure. Fixing the crisis is going to take bold and sustained reform on several fronts.

We need to crack down on speculators, starting off by banning non-resident foreigners from buying existing homes. Government needs to be willing to intervene in the market on an ongoing basis to deliver the volume and quality of affordable housing needed. Currently an accumulated shortfall of 30-40,000 in Auckland. Labour believes a big bold policy like Kiwibuild is needed to flood the market with high quality affordable homes.

But this morning I want to share with you Labour’s ideas on reforming the planning rules, and the way infrastructure is financed, to add to our comprehensive set of policies designed to fix the housing crisis.

Our commitment is to free up the restrictions on density, reform the use of urban growth boundaries to stop them driving up section costs, and modernise the way infrastructure for development is financed.

We believe these three changes will allow the property industry to build more and build better. It will allow the market to be more responsive to demand. Crucially it will allow more affordable housing to be built in places where people want to live.

First, we will publish a National Policy Statement under the Resource Management Act that will for example, direct Auckland Council to free up the rules on intensification in its Unitary Plan, because it is a matter of national importance.

The detail of land use rules is rightly a matter for local communities and their elected representatives in local government, but overly restrictive rules on height and density shut down housing affordability and choke off supply.

Being smart about urban growth boundaries is the next big challenge. Over the last 25 years the urban boundary, along with the density restrictions, have stopped Auckland building up and out during a time of rapid population increase. It created a pressure cooker which found its only release in skyrocketing section prices.

The big problem with the urban growth boundary is that it creates an artificial scarcity of land that drives up section prices, creating wonderful business opportunities for land bankers. We believe there are better ways to manage growth on the city fringes, particularly more intensive use of spatial planning in growth corridors.

The key to making both these measures work is reforming the inefficient and expensive way infrastructure is financed.

Currently all of the infrastructure costs within a new development, and a share of the connecting infrastructure through development contributions, are financed by the developer and directly passed on to the home buyer, and paid off through their mortgage. This adds tens of thousands to the price tag of the new home, making it even more unaffordable. Worse, the higher price of land is substantially capitalised into the value of all homes in the market.

Our policy is to finance infrastructure using local government bonds paid off through a targeted rate on the properties in the new development. Bonds are a much cheaper option than funding it through your mortgage. They allow you to spread the cost over the lifetime of the asset. It is fairer and more efficient.

Bill English and Nick Smith have been blaming the RMA for expensive housing for ten years now. After seven years in government they have not yet done anything to tackle the substantive ways that Council planning rules block development: density restrictions, urban growth boundaries and infrastructure financing.

In fact for the last several years the National Government has been on a fruitless quest to weaken the core environmental principles of the RMA. They have not yet been able to get support from the country or the Parliament for these changes, and have wasted years in the process.

Labour’s policy of a National Policy Statement could have addressed the critical issues years ago.

So, there are three practical proposals that under an Andrew Little-led government will clear away the road blocks to building more and building better. … There is nothing inevitable about the housing crisis. The solutions are all there. We just need a Government with the political will to embrace reform.

41 comments on “Twyford on solutions to the housing crisis in Auckland ”

  1. tinfoilhat 1

    Good on Phil for continuing to plug away at this problem.

    The Nats have done nothing to alleviate the housing issues in Auckland apart from telling half truths, obfuscation and blaming everyone else apart from themselves.

  2. saveNZ 2

    Personally don’t think this approach is a winner for Labour.

    Homeowners are being sickened by the assault on their properties and communities. When you see how currently Auckland planners are just approving everything willy nilly so much so that a guy found out that 1/4 of his house was being demolished as it was a duplex but the council thought that the effect on his property was only minor. In Wellington the neighbours who put up a massive fence to block their neighbours views pretending it was part of a playground or the ancient Kauri tree destroyed in Titirangi and the 1 km of harbour that was stolen for ports of Auckland – you realise that actually what is wrong is the planners themselves.

    Banning foreign investors by buying existing homes is too late, how about zero homes for foreign investors, maybe they should invest in something else business related in this country? The level of community and council land being developed into retirement homes, shoddy apartments and corporate welfare shopping malls turning our cities into some sort of Thai style glitz with slum developments often with foreign money.

    The housing crisis is directly caused by government immigration policy. Increasing the population 1 – 1.5% per YEAR, but all the so called commentators just don’t want to talk about it. That is not migrants fault it is the governments fault.

    Developers develop for rich people. The new houses and apartments going up in Auckland are one of the bigger drivers of the speculation with million dollar houses being built on the SHA in some cases. It is a joke!

    As is selling off state houses. And having the cost of 1 hour of parking in Auckland the same price as minimum wage.

    And as for the underinvestment in public transport. It is deplorable. You can spread the city out as far and wide as LA but we will be condemned to smog and commuter times of hours.

    Would love the left to get real on the concerns of existing property owners and actually not go Nat Lite on the issue by thinking property developers and less regulation and foreign money will solve the problem.

    • Sabine 2.1

      it would be nice if someone would get real on the concerns of the existing homeless, four to a room flatters, precariously living in a shed/garage/car/ditch, hoping not to loose their rental to a sale etc etc etc. Cause we don’t.

      The homeowners in many cases are relatively safe, they own their properties and while they may not have a big say on what happens when their neighbor sells up they still have a safe place to stay until they decide to cash into the market in AKL. But neither dot he tenants of these buildings. And we need to start looking at communities in terms of home owners and tenants, unless we are happy to be the last homeowner in a community of ever selling houses and transient tenants.

      And again, are we talking about homeowners that own the one property they live in, or homeowners that hold three to four mortgages and hope to god and goddess that nothing happens to them and their incomes.

      So i don’t disagree with you on Council Planners doing very little to help the problem, but frankly after 8 years of National Party led Goverments Do Nothing approach to the housing crisis, the last worries that I have for my community are home owners.

      Our worries are such that the houses that have been initially sold three years ago by are still going up like clock work every 6 month for sale, that a rotting pile of wood was sold to a TV Show contestant and needs to be sold now after having been empty for 5 month with a profit. Which will lead to a very small, no section, only one car park, very little on street parking 3 bedder and an under the staircase closet being sold for something like a million – cause the tv show contestant bought and renovated a crap little starter house for 750.000$ !!!!. I am sure the homeowner will not find anything to complain about.

      What Mr. Twyford said and has been saying now for a while should be a winner, unless we are happy to throw 50+% of the population under the bus when it comes to housing.
      Consider also that it is not just young ones that are priced out, it is also a few of the 40+ age group that have lost mortgages at the beginning of 2008 – 9 during re-structuring, loss of job, illness, divorce etc etc etc that now will never be able to buy a house again in what is their home town. But then maybe home town only means something if it concerns home owners.
      All others can get ‘fudged’.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      Banning foreign investors by buying existing homes is too late, how about zero homes for foreign investors, maybe they should invest in something else business related in this country?

      Nope. People offshore simply shouldn’t own anything in NZ.

      corporate welfare shopping malls

      Why are people still building shopping malls? They belong to last century.

      Would love the left to get real on the concerns of existing property owners and actually not go Nat Lite on the issue by thinking property developers and less regulation and foreign money will solve the problem.


      • I’d say it’s going too far to say people offshore shouldn’t own ANYTHING in New Zealand, but we have a legitimate interest in preserving New Zealand ownership of at least a majority of assets in New Zealand, so that we don’t become, essentially, a dormitory country, renting our accomodation from foreign interests to work for multinationals to buy food from multinationals in order to go back to work for multinationals, with every transaction sending the majority of money involved overseas.

        Those who do want to own property here should be interested in either living in it themselves or providing for affordable rental or lease. (subject to enforced minimum standards)

        edit: I guess I just feel like forcing foreign owners to occupy the property a significant time themselves, or making them provide affordable rentals with reasonable conditions will remove a lot of the incentive to own ALL the rental property. Perhaps I’m wrong though. 🙂

        • Draco T Bastard

          I’d say it’s going too far to say people offshore shouldn’t own ANYTHING in New Zealand

          Nope. It’s about equality under the law. If we allow some offshore people to own part of NZ then we have to allow all offshore people to own part of NZ. This will, over time, remove NZers ability to live in their own land.

          Those who do want to own property here should be interested in either living in it themselves or providing for affordable rental or lease.

          Nope as it simply doesn’t do anything for us while allowing offshore parasites to live off of the work of NZers.

          • AmaKiwi

            + 1

            “affordable rental or lease” means we pay foreigners rent/profits which go overseas, worsening our balance of trade. We do this so we can”enjoy the “privilege” of living in our own country!

            If we want foreigners to sell off the properties they presently own, we simply change the tax code to make it prohibitively expensive for them to retain properties here. Quadrupling the rates on foreign owned properties would do wonders for my ever escalating rates.

            It is common for countries prohibit foreigners owning property.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Well, I’d disagree a little that it does NOTHING for us, having affordable and up-to-code rentals is something we do need, it’s just a question of whether the correct amount can be either owned by New Zealand capital, or are an investment the government can afford to make if we have a chance to implement your buyback of property from offshore interests. (by which I assume you mean non-resident foreigners and multinationals not doing business in NZ?) We currently have too much property, with not enough being lived in, and the property that is lived in not being up to an acceptable standard. I imagine requiring offshore speculators to rent it out or reside in it themselves (in addition to a tax on capital in NZ) would probably cool down the market a lot, but YMMV.

            I totally agree with the reasons you want to do this but I think allowing SOME amount of openness in property investment isn’t unreasonable, but possibly with practical limits on how much profit can be offshored, either by setting the standards for rentals and leases very high, or by implementing an actual cap to offshoring rental profits. Of course if that didn’t fix things sufficiently I’d agree that your proposal is the logical next step.

            • Draco T Bastard

              having affordable and up-to-code rentals is something we do need, it’s just a question of whether the correct amount can be either owned by New Zealand capital

              All money in NZ can easily be NZ money. Having foreign money in NZ doesn’t actually make any more resources available.

              (by which I assume you mean non-resident foreigners and multinationals not doing business in NZ?)

              By which I mean anybody not living in NZ and multi-nationals also wouldn’t be able to operate in NZ (they can sell their goods here but it’d have to be through a local distributor).

              • Right. It’s just a question of when you do the buyback whether the government feels it’s acceptable to hold onto whatever proportion of property can’t be on-sold to local investors, as that might end up being a large liability if it expands the housing/rental market by a large degree. I don’t expect that any government willing to do such a buy-back would be terribly keen on hanging onto ALL the properties it bought, although it would probably hold onto some as social housing. Some properties might be elaborate mansions for non-resident celebrities, for instance, which would possibly be impractical for the government to rent or lease.

                Interesting point on multinationals btw, I like it.

      • dave 2.2.2

        if you haven’t noticed Westfield are bailing out of the shopping mails if you look at a shopping mail they don’t make sense any longer there is nothing in them that isnt being sold on line and as the years pass they will become more and more irrelevant the only retail shop that make sense is likes of bunnings building supplies anything else is just an expensive showroom there closing mails down across America or desperately trying to find some formula to make them work

  3. ianmac 3

    Does it have to be a “winner” for the Little-lead Government? Surely it would be proof of competent well thought out Government. Lots more to come.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    First, we will publish a National Policy Statement under the Resource Management Act that will for example, direct Auckland Council to free up the rules on intensification in its Unitary Plan, because it is a matter of national importance.

    The thing to note here is that the National Government has long blamed both Auckland Council and the RMA for limitations on new house availability in Auckland.

    Now Labour has come to the same understanding as the National Party, albeit years late to the party, and officially admitted that Key and English had it right all along.

    • AmaKiwi 4.1

      And this Labour idea is another devastating blow for democracy.

      Which dictatorship should I vote for. Neither is democratic.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        Labour originally complained that National’s approach was undemocratic.

        Now its decided to do yet another National Government aping act. Just add it to the list:

        Keep National’s TPPA
        Sign up to National’s spying and anti-terror legislation
        National’s Kiwi Bank pseudo-privatisation is a good idea
        Vote for the NAT’s beneficiary and their partners blaming bill


        • Chris

          And the worst thing is that there’s absolutely no indication that Labour’s going to change, and every indication that it’s more of the same.

          What’s important here for the “head in the sand Labour can do wrong” brigade is that it’s an extremely irresponsible position for Labour to be taking. They’re sitting on around just under 30% which means they’re going nowhere but that level of support also prevents others from taking that position. The result is that Labour props up a nasty hate-driven Key-led government. And it’s no coincidence that their policies are almost identical.

  5. AB 5

    We have to tackle domestic speculators too, not just foreign ones.
    How about a direct tax on income from rental properties – say 2.5% per bedroom cumulative across your rental portfolio so at 40 bedrooms you forgo all your income from rent?
    Doesn’t cripple the middle class mum & dad who rent out a single 3-bedder to (say) augment retirement income, but targets the bigger players.
    Would trigger an orgy of evasion I guess?

    • Rocco Siffredi 5.1

      So people just buy houses and don’t rent them out. The tax is then avoided.

    • Nessalt 5.2

      And who do you think pays this tax? i’m not really keen on paying my landlord $975 per week to share a house because he is paying tax of 50% on his 6th or 7th house. people would avoid this tax on purpose because it’s so ridiculous.

      • AB 5.2.1

        Indeed – you’d have to combine it with a rent freeze. And of course do something about houses left vacant and farmed for unearned capital gain.
        Depends how determined you are to stop wealth all heading in one direction.
        Housing is a human right – becoming a petit rentier capitalist isn’t.

        • Nessalt

          Housing or owning housing?

          there is always going to be a need for landlords, without the petty envy labels.

          • AB

            “there is always going to be a need for landlords, without the petty envy labels”
            Possibly – do they need to be private individuals and should they be allowed (along with the banks) to create bubbles that cause a lot of suffering fro those priced out of ‘the market’. Why should housing be a market?

            No envy here mate – outrage – quite different from envy when viewed from a moral perspective. ‘Politics of envy’ is of course an empty right-wing slogan mouthed by the privileged.

  6. greywarshark 6

    This below from your comment, is good. But banning foreign investors from buying existing homes is overdue, not too late. Action now would slowdown the ‘fever’ in property buying.

    Banning foreign investors by buying existing homes is too late, how about zero homes for foreign investors, maybe they should invest in something else business related in this country? The level of community and council land being developed into retirement homes, shoddy apartments and corporate welfare shopping malls turning our cities into some sort of Thai style glitz with slum developments often with foreign money.

    Basically the neo libs have majorly stuffed up with their economics. They have grabbed as much money as they can get, and now are uncertain what to do with it. They can hold onto it for a while because of the low inflation focus, but it is sloshing around looking for a home. Housing isn’t controlled by low inflation targets and is free to rise exponentially so they obviously want to push their money in there.

    Instead of playing fair in the economic cycle and paying a living wage, being considerate of people like themselves and also our nurturing environment and not ripping both off they do what? With their pocket money they go into sports corruption. There is money to be made from playing games with the games and past-times of the masses. On Radionz yesterday there was an Asian corporate mentioned with turnover annually of $54 billion, compared to Adidas that makes physical objects and reaches $10 billion annually. (e&oe on my figures quoted)

    Declan Hill on fighting sports corruption
    With two high profile sporting events fast approaching, the Rio Olympics and Euro 2016 in France, what chance is there of fans continuing to get any pleasure from watching professional sport?
    Declan Hill is one of the world’s foremost experts on match-fixing and corruption in international sports. He was the first person to show the new danger to international sport posed by the globalization of the gambling market and match-fixing at the highest levels of professional football including the Champions League and FIFA World Cup tournaments.
    Part of his first book ‘The Fix: Organized Crime and Soccer’ details his involvement with an Asian match-fixing gang as they travelled around the world to fix major football matches. His second book was called ‘The Insider’s Guide to Match-Fixing’.

    From Nine To Noon on 14 Apr 2016

  7. Olwyn 7

    I want to see intended results spelled out in black and white. I am not persuaded by a series of moves A, B and C that point toward a vaguely outlined but desirable end. It offers no criterion for measuring the success of A, B and C, or recommending their adjustment where necessary. Thus it comes across as a pitch more than a commitment. What is deemed an affordable house? If an affordable house is only affordable to those with reliable, above average incomes and parents able to stump up with a deposit, will steps be made to ensure a supply of affordable rental accommodation, including state or social housing? If people are to be pushed to the outer edges of the city, will the infrastructure necessary to a fledgling community be part of the deal? Are we aiming for a mix of rich and poor across all or most areas, or continuing the trend toward stratification based on wealth? At least some of these questions, and others like them, need to be answered to raise the above claims from a pitch to a set of practical propositions.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1


      All I see from the above is Labour clinging desperately on to the failed policies of the last thirty years rather than looking for and enacting the necessary changes.

    • Colonial Viper 7.2

      Exactly. All these fall into the category of policy gestures, nothing more. Affordable homes = 4x household income, MAX.

      So let’s look at the reality here – none of these steps is going to make Auckland home ownership anywhere near within reach for the median household income of $80K pa.

      Let alone households trying to get by on a single full time median income of $45K to $50K pa.

      The reason for this is simple – no government Labour or National, will force a fall in today’s utterly unaffordable house values.

      The policy setting this nation needs – but again, neither Labour or National will approach – is that we need to get people out of Auckland and into the regions.

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    We need to crack down on speculators, starting off by banning non-resident foreigners from buying existing homes.

    No, we need to ban offshore ownership altogether so that NZers aren’t priced out of the market by people who don’t even live here.

    Over the last 25 years the urban boundary, along with the density restrictions, have stopped Auckland building up and out during a time of rapid population increase.

    Nothing wrong with the urban boundary. In fact, it’s essential as cities cannot expand indefinitely due to lack of land and the fact that sprawl itself is uneconomic. Expanding the boundaries will not help.

    That means the problem is the height restrictions which prevent cities from building upwards.

    The big problem with the urban growth boundary is that it creates an artificial scarcity of land

    No, the land really is scarce. Nobody’s creating any more of it.

    We believe there are better ways to manage growth on the city fringes

    Shut it down altogether as it’s uneconomic.

    Our policy is to finance infrastructure using local government bonds paid off through a targeted rate on the properties in the new development.

    Better idea just to have the local council create the money to build the infrastructure needed and then cover it with rates. No interest that way.

  9. Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster) 9

    Part of the problem is the housing bubble. So, how about this for a solution:

    a) immediately cease paying the Accommodation Supplement.

    b) immediately limit rentals to 25% of income.

    Drastic huh? But think it through – all speculators would be caught with pressing mortgages and little income to service those mortgages. House prices would plunge – putting affordable housing within reach of new home buyers. Banks, with millions of unserviceable debts on their hands, would be forced to take the loss. And, there would be a huge demand, from the top, for affordable wages so landlords could get some return!

    Not that I expect anything like this to happen!

    • Stuart Munro 9.1

      Rather than relate rent caps to income, cap rents per square meter – that reduces landlords conspiring to evict low-income families and reduces the attractiveness of real estate investment which is causing the problem. Get Auckland city to institute a punitive tax on empty housing too – so investors don’t use that trick.

      We need a Solonian reform – redirecting capital from non-productive rent-seeking real estate bubbles into productive enterprise.

      No chance of that from this stupid and irresponsible government of course. They still think they’re rockstars.

    • AmaKiwi 9.2

      “immediately cease paying the Accommodation Supplement.”

      The Accommodation Supplement is one of the sneakiest political tricks ever invented. Those receiving it think it is some sort of benefit to them. They rarely appreciate its purpose is to put extra money into their landlords’ pockets, artificially driving up rents throughout lower class communities.

      Political result? Both poor and rich will scream bloody murder if we try to abolish it. But we should.

  10. Colonial Viper 10

    Why does this Labour proposal not force property divestment and an end to foreign Chinese ownership of Auckland housing?

    This was a major issue that Labour raised last year, which it said was a huge deal in high Auckland house prices.

    So where is their initiative to turn this around? Why have they left this critical issue off the list?

    Are they going to follow through on what they started last year?

    • TC 10.1


      What did you expect from a fully paid member of the ABC club.

      • Colonial Viper 10.1.1

        Makes me think that Labour’s Chinese sounding last names finger pointing last year was all about cynical vote winning PR and populism, not guts and not substance.

        • Visubversa

          There are streets on Auckland’s North Shore where 90% of the properties are owned by people with “Chinese sounding names”. The houses are all 5 or 6 bedroom, 6 bathroom monstrosities built to the maximum building coverage. Who will want to live in them in 20 years?

          • Colonial Viper

            I was living in Auckland when they were building these pieces of shite in the 2000s.

            And now they are building very similar in Christchurch. Hundreds of them 200m2 300m2 400m2 floor area houses. For top dollar buyers.

            Nothing affordable. Nothing for if you’re earning $90K pa even.

            It’s fucking nuts.

            • Ad

              We looked pretty carefully over the last three months at buying another apartment in town over the last few months, but we view the current prices as bubble-like and too risky.

              We’ve seen a lot of people who own apartments that they have leased out to hotels, simply withdraw them from hotel rental because the rental as an apartment per week is now far superior and more stable. Net effect is 0% hotel vacancy in the CBD.

              Our view is simply to offset the savings against the remaining mortgage, keep the remaining rentals yielding high, and wait for the pop of the bubble to hit. Plus count down the years to Wanaka.

              We don’t like the degree of vulnerability that this government has led us down. Even our major local landlord investors we know are pulling right back.

              • Colonial Viper

                sounds sensible. limiting your downside at this stage of the cycle is a very good idea.

  11. Ad 11

    His proposal of a National Policy Statement on housing rolls hard over the top of Auckland Council and the many vested interests who pressured them into the absurd Unitary Plan coming to vote in July. In fact it guts the powers of democracy at a local level in every metropolitan council.

    That is a massive political call against the Property Council, the banks, the real estate agents, and the ratepayer groups and their lawyers.

    Twyford will need nerves of steel and all power to him.

  12. Nice to see someone actually coming up with some solutions to solve this very serious issue. The current crop in government don’t seem to care less about it.

  13. Tanz 13

    Part of the problem is that many MP’s , from both sides, own rental properties. They are feathering their own nests, and too bad for those left out in the cold. The overseas investors are the elephant in the room, but no one in the House ever speaks that truth. It’s such a betrayal and royal sellout. What happened to a NZ that cared about its fellow humans?

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