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Are you opposed to the KiwiBuild rest?

WIRE 5/9/2019

The government’s KiwiBuild housing programme was officially reset yesterday, by new Housing Minister Megan Woods. The target of 100,000 houses over a decade is gone - replaced with a target to simply build as many houses as possible, as quickly as possible. Buyers of KiwiBuild studios and one-bedrooms now only having to commit to living in the house for one year rather than three, before they can sell it. And, there’s a commitment of 400 million dollars to a progressive home ownership scheme - something which was in the Green Party's confidence and supply agreement, but which we don’t have a lot of information on just yet. 

National’s Housing Spokesperson Judith Collins has been very critical of the policy since its inception. Host Stewart Sowman-Lund spoke with her on Thursday morning to get her reaction to the reset.

You can find the full interview here and the written transcript below. What follows is a write up from Angus Coker Grant.

National housing spokesperson Judith Collins has always been a critic of the policy, and had strong words to say on the recent reset. “I really do think it’s time to call time on the policy, or even the name of it,'' Collins continued. “Because it’s now just a farce.”

Even so, Collins is eager to learn the details in the new plan and is offering her help.

“I would be keen to learn about more of what they’re planning around shared ownership models and rent-to-buy models.”

The politician sees all parties with a responsibility to solve the housing crisis. “My view is, is that we have a duty to sort it out.”

Collins defends National’s actions in power and the current state of RMA and planning laws.

“Nick Smith and Amy Adams both tried to get resource management planning laws reforms through while we were in government and for nine years they got no help whatsoever, from the Greens, Labour, or NZ First.” 

This past experience fuels Collins’ desire to be included in discussion surrounding the housing crisis. “Together, if we work together on resource management act reform and planning rules, we would be able to get through very significant reform that is not held hostage to very small parties.”

When asked about the new drop-down to a 5% deposit on a home, Collins approved.

“The trouble with ever having limits on deposits in the first place, creates a very strange an unlevel playing field, so the 5% doesn’t particularly worry me.” However, Collins noted that the low deposit could lead to a price increase.

Collins closes with reiterating her point of co-operation across parties. “We really do have, I think, the once in a lifetime opportunity for two major parties to stop being silly and just work together to get the right outcomes for New Zealanders.”

By Angus Coker Grant

 

ORIGINAL TRANSCRIPT

Stewart Sowman-Lund: Do you feel any better about Kiwibuild following the reset?

Judith Collins: Well there’s nothing in it really now, is there? I would be keen to learn about more of what they’re planning around shared ownership models and rent-to-buy models. I'm always interested in looking at that. They were announced yesterday that there’s some work going on and apparently some cabinet paper will be ready in December. So I'd like to learn the details. But I think generally the whole thing’s a bit of a farce. What are they doing extending out some deposits or whatever. I mean, I don’t think it’s going to make a lot of difference, Stewart, and I really do think it’s time to call time on the policy, or even the name of it, because it’s now just a farce.

It is certainly true that they’ve gutted what was the original policy and yet kept it as ‘KiwiBuild’. But is not the idea of the government simply providing a lot of affordable houses or trying to at least, doing something to try and make housing a bit more reachable for people like myself, for example?

I’ve got a lot of sympathy for people who want to get their first home and haven’t been able to make that happen. But I do know that the government hasn’t actually helped that much. I meant there’s been a few people who’ve been able to buy some Kiwibuild homes. They’re not that much cheaper than anywhere else, frankly, if they bought existing homes. And in the meantime the markets and developers have been busily building around 40,000 homes a year and yet the government has hopped along with a couple of hundred and think they’ve done fabulous work. I think it’s really important to understand is what holds everything up and adds to cost is the price of land and that is very much around the restrictions on land use but also around the Resource Management Act and planning rules they apply, the issues around infrastructure. Those are issues that the government is now starting to understand are problems. The problem with that is it’s taken them a long time to work it out. I’ve said look, we’ll help them with it if they need votes to get stuff through if we think it’s a good thing and I think it’s time we all stopped playing politics and decided we were going to sort this issue. Because whichever government’s in power, they’re going to have the same issue.

You would certainly be open to cross-party working to try and fix housing considering we all recognise there is a problem?

Well I think that’s exactly right and I don’t think that the public has a lot of sympathy if we’re just going to be saying ‘that’s not my idea, so it’s a bad one’. My view is, is that we have a duty to sort it out. And what we do know and it’s now across party acceptance - that there is a major problem with the rules around how houses subdivide and the costs involved because of that. And also, in the Auckland region in particular, the metropolitan urban limits, which was put in place to stop the urban sprawl, has actually just worked into land banking schemes for developers, and it’s meant there's very little competition around getting housing available to the markets. I think there’s also issues around building material supply, and what’s perceived as lack of competition in that area as well.

Do you think we’d still be in the situation we’re in now, if we’d all agreed about the problem ten or eleven years ago rather than now all being in agreement with the issue?

Well I think it’s a very good point and I’d say no, we would be in a better position. To be frank my colleagues Nick Smith and Amy Adams both tried to get resource management planning laws reforms through while we were in government and for nine years they got no help whatsoever, from the Greens, Labour, or NZ First. It was very hard to get through what we wanted and in particular what we ended up doing is compromising what we thought was the right thing to do to get Māori party and ACT to support. The trouble with that is that we’ve got two big parties, National and Labour. Together, if we work together on resource management act reform and planning rules, we would be able to get through very significant reform that is not held hostage to very small parties.

The biggest part of this reset, for me, as someone that has never really thought I‘d ever be able to own a home is the drop down to a 5% deposit. Is that something that you think is a good step forward?

I think the trouble with ever having limits on deposits in the first place, creates a very strange an unlevel playing field, so the 5% doesn’t particularly worry me. There is some particular concern that it may end up with an increase in prices. But when you are paying rent - I actually think a mortgage, particularly with interest rates, as they are now, is almost invariably going to be better, and easier to pay than rent. So that doesn’t worry me at all. I just think the big thing is going to be sorting out those rules. I mean Phil Twyford for years, denied there was a problem. He now understands that there is. He’s accepted it, I think we just need to sit down together and work something out. 

I agree with you in terms of the progressive homeownership scheme - that we don’t really have any idea what that means. But in principle is that something you and the National Party would support, maybe like a rent-to-buy scheme for example?

There’s nothing right now to stop any developer or owner of the property from having a rent-to-buy scheme with their tenant. Nothing at all; they could do it right now. So the people who now don’t do it, but used to do it, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, that was Housing New Zealand. And that is one of the ways in which people who get into a safe house and who find themselves now in employment and getting ahead, that they can actually end up buying their own home. I think that’s a good idea. I also think too, that that means you have to have the state building houses, but also community housing in particular, and they do those schemes. I’m just interested to see what they’re talking about at the moment, the details, because there’s actually nothing to stop that happening right now with community housing providers and also private landlords. 

In terms of cross-party support it would be good if we knew these sort of things because we might be able to make some progress across all of parliament. Going back to that, what stage are we at with cross-party support, is there progress on RMA reform?

 All year, in fact probably last 18 months I’ve asked Labour Party to please include us in discussion. I wrote a few weeks ago to David Parker, who’s the Minister for Resource Management Issues under the environment portfolio and asked to be included in discussions and to offer our support. He wrote back an extraordinarily rude letter, basically telling me where to go and said ‘well you guys didn’t fix it in nine years’, forgetting that of course they wouldn’t help us do it. We really do have, I think, the once in a lifetime opportunity for two major parties to stop being silly and just work together to get the right outcomes for New Zealanders and because what Labour have done, what the government has done is set up a working group to look at, to review the RMA. The problem with that is the Green Party and NZ First have confirmed that they will not agree with each other on it. So the only way Labour can get anything through if we support it. Otherwise you don’t have the numbers to do it.