Written By: - Date published: 10:08 am, May 17th, 2013 - 127 comments
Categories: accountability, auckland supercity, bill english, class war, democracy under attack, housing, labour, local government, privatisation, same old national, sustainability - Tags: nick smith, phil twyford
In its budget and its related “accord” with the Auckland Council over Housing, National moved in response to opposition pressures to increase affordable housing. It’s all sleight of hand, limited real solutions, and one or two marginal gains.
It’s good that social (especially community) housing gets a boost. But it should not be at the expense of the divestment of state housing. It now has created a climate of fear and insecurity for state housing tenants, most of whom are on meagre incomes and with limited resources to resist a a callous and ideologically-driven government.
In the last few weeks the government had reached an accord with Auckland Council over housing, that it included in the budget. It followed this up immediately by launching the housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill in the House under urgency, with the first reading yesterday. Phil Twyford’s response was excellent, laying out the problems the Bill doesn’t resolve, and highlighting that it was the result of a government “spooked” by Labour’s Kiwibuild policy.
During the debate on the next related Bill’s first reading, also debated under urgency yesterday, Phil Twyford asks if kicking state housing residents out of their homes is an aspirational target,
Is it simply an aspirational target like the 39,000 houses that Mr Smith says that he is gonna build in Auckland?39,000 houses he says he’s gonna build simply by opening the gate to greenfields land on the fringes of the city and streamlining a bit of RMA consenting. …. Only the National Party, only the National Party, would come to this house, with an inspirational target in the area social housing to boot out 3,000 state tenants when we are in the worst affordable housing crisis in living memory.
However, the Auckland Council-government accord is already under threat as a result of Auckland Council being unhappy with the “housing accord” Bill. Auckland Council says the housing plans in yesterday’s budget are at odds with the agreement Auckland Council drawn up between the mayor and the minister last week, but not yet signed. The accord still need to go to the Auckland Council for ratification. Auckland deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, talking on Morning Report on RNZ this morning said,
The legislation that’s been passed certainly doesn’t follow through with much of what was negotiated through the accord.
Hulse says that the Council is committed to getting affordable housing on the ground. The government is committed to more houses being built in Auckland. However, Hulse says,
It’s not just about plonking houses in paddocks out on the outskirts of Auckland to bring house prices down.
The worry with the legislation is that it doesn’t meet with Auckland Council’s plan to be innovative. The government’s legislation just seems to go back to the just release the urban limits and “just plonk houses in paddocks” on the outskirts of Auckland. There also needs to be support for first time buyers, a capital gains tax.
I’m concerned that Hulses’ focus (as with Labour’s Kiwibuild) is on first time buyers, and not low income renters and state house tenants.
However, their policies go a lot further towards improving the housing provisions for the majority than does the government’s. Hulse says Auckland, and “the whole of New Zealand” are concerned about the government giving itself the ability to override Council building consents. This weakens the desire for local communities to have a say in the development of their communities.
Hulse says they need to get round the table again with the government. So, on top of the government’s lack of concern for the plight of those on low incomes most impacted by the crisis in (un)affordable housing, their pitiful response via the budget, is shown to be lacking in integrity. The NAct government is again shown to be ruthlessly wedded to the discredited “neoliberal” focus on state provision-bad, private provision-good. Underlying this is their anti-democratic MO, and their support of private enterprise and the interest of the 2% over that of the people.
Interestingly the Accord states that publicity about it was to be agreed to by the Mayor and Nick Smith prior to its release. Looks like Len does not believe that this occurred.
It is a big stick the Government has handed itself and it smacks of bad faith bargaining.
[Update] further analysis of the government’s bad faith negotiations posted by mickysavage at Waitakere News.