Half-hearted measures destruct the Kiwi dream

David Shearer – Foreign ownership kills-David Shearer Web

Last weekend, hundreds of young Kiwis, couples and families, queued at Open Homes around New Zealand, hoping to buy a house.

Some of them would have been saving for a decade or more – but rising house prices have them going backwards.

It is a scenario that is being played out every week – young couples up against a dog-eat-dog property market where, unless you are already on the ladder, or have generous parents with very deep pockets, the home ownership dream will continue to be just that – a dream.

Government fails

And still the National Government would not admit that there is a housing crisis.

The government has failed to rein in soaring prices, failed to stop speculators buying and selling homes for massive profits, failed to provide temporary accommodation for increasing numbers of Kiwis locked out of even the rental market, and failed to provide anywhere near affordable homes for a new generation of first-home buyers.

Remember (Prime Minister) John Key’s solution for young families struggling to get onto the property market? He said to look on ‘Trade Me.’

Remember (Social Development Minister) Paula Bennett’s solution to moving people out of cars and into temporary homes – she called them ‘Flying Squads’.

Affordable Housing

Labour, on the other hand, has a comprehensive plan to tackle the problem by setting up an Affordable Housing Authority.

Its mandate will be to work with the sector to build more affordable homes and undertake major green-fields and revitalisation programmes, as well as cracking down on speculators.

We will also end National’s state house sell-off and stop using Housing NZ as a cash cow, instead refocusing it on what it does best – housing people who need homes.

The $118 million dividend the Government has demanded of Housing New Zealand will be reinvested into building more homes and updating existing ones.

People camping out in cars or in friends’ and relatives’ garages will be helped into temporary accommodation through extra funding to emergency housing providers.

Ineffective plans

The government does not have a comprehensive plan – it is just a collection of grudging half-measures that it hopes might make a difference, but which have failed to make an impact.

Their flagship supply initiative, Auckland’s special housing areas, have delivered only 1000 homes in three years, when 13,000 are needed.

Labour’s ‘KiwiBuild Policy’ will see 100,000 high quality affordable homes built over 10 years. Standalone houses in Auckland will cost $500,000 to $600,000, with apartments and townhouses under $500,000.

They will range from $300,000 to $500,000 outside of Auckland.

Latest figures from Statistics NZ show the Government’s been missing in action on housing. In the past year, the number of new families who own their own home grew by just 5700 while the number of renters increased by twice as much: 13,500 households.

Head in the sand

That, along with the daily stories of people not being able to afford to rent, of young couples – and their parents and grandparents – resigned to kissing the Kiwi dream of owning a home goodbye, of speculators making tens of thousands a month by buying and flipping property, paint a damning picture.

National is still trying to insist there is no housing crisis.

We are saying that there is and we have got some bold ideas to address it.

David Shearer is an elected Member of Parliament from Mt Albert in Auckland and Labour Party’s spokesman for Foreign Affairs.

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