NZ's largest landlord absent from Akl housing talks

9:36 pm on 10 March 2017

Analysis - The country's biggest home owner and rental landlord, Housing New Zealand, has chosen to sidestep Auckland's Mayoral Taskforce on Housing Supply.

Auckland housing

Housing New Zealand was the only no-show after the first two days of meetings. Photo: 123rf.com

Housing New Zealand owns 27,000 homes in Auckland and could develop 42,000 more on its existing land.

This makes its absence significant as mayor Phil Goff figures out how to remove barriers to faster home building.

HNZ was invited to the taskforce discussion and was the only no-show after two of the five daily sessions.

"We believe our best contributions continue to be at that grass roots level where we are, and have been, on steering groups and working parties," the agency told RNZ in a statement.

The 12 full participants in the taskforce are council and private sector representatives who will work on a list of recommendations to government.

The group also includes Auckland-based executives from three government entities, as well as a Treasury advisory, who are there as "active observers" - they are part of the chat but not tied to the taskforce's findings.

RNZ has requested to see working papers, and learn what the taskforce's budget was, but this was initially declined by the mayor's office, which referred to the council's official information unit.

Mr Goff said issues floated at the start of the process included that the building industry needed to have long-term confidence.

"A sense that if the government wants them to gear up to build houses at a faster rate, then greater certainty and confidence is needed so industry knows that just as they gear-up, they won't suddenly face a recession," Mr Goff said.

Worries about more restricted financing from Australian-owned banks focussed on meeting Australian regulatory goals, and the fragmented nature of the building industry, were also raised.

Mr Goff said industry players wanted a more streamlined consenting process for approved builders, not wanting every step of every dwelling checked, and perhaps relieving the council of liability, by the industry insuring itself against subsequent claims for building failures.

No agreement on housing shortage numbers

14072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Hobsonville is booming. Around 20% of the homes being built here will be affordable homes.

MBIE said it was impossible to determine the exact number of houses needed. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

As the group meets, Auckland's housing shortage continues to worsen, although there's no agreement on how bad it is.

Auckland Council's 2012 development vision, The Auckland Plan, estimated there needed to be 30,000 more.

The arithmetic once accepted by the council and government is that Auckland needs to build 13,000 homes a year, each year, for several decades.

The government's National Construction Pipeline Report (PDF, 1.5MB) forecast 12,000 consents for 2016.

The actual number of residential consents lodged just pipped 10,000 - 2000 short of the government's forecast. Auckland Council estimates only 6500 dwellings have been completed - half the number required to meet demand.

The consent trend has plateaued with the most recent four months of residential consents lodged in Auckland at 2720, only 10 dwellings higher than a year earlier.

Prime Minister Bill English added confusion when, in February, he said the national housing shortage "looked more likely to be in the 10-20,000 range".

Mr English's office offered several explanations for where that figure came from. But in effect said the prime minister had in mid-sentence switched from talking about the country's shortage, to Auckland's, and used an Auckland figure that could also be found in a past media story.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment told the incoming minister, Nick Smith, in October 2014 that Auckland's housing shortage was at 18,000.

However, in a statement to RNZ last month it said "it is impossible to determine an exact number" and that estimates range "from around 10,000 to more than 30,000".

The taskforce make-up

  • Auckland Council - mayor Phil Goff, deputy mayor Bill Cashmore, Planning Committee chair Chris Darby and two council housing officials
  • BNZ - Anthony Healy, CEO or Paul Blair, Head of Institutional Banking
  • Fletcher Construction - Steve Evans, CEO Residential
  • Institute of Architects
  • Registered Master Builders Assn
  • NZ Housing Foundation
  • Ockham (apartment developer)
  • Sapere Research Group (policy advisors)
  • Sense (economist Shamubeel Eaquub )
  • Stevenson Group (concrete supplier )
  • Todd Property Group (developer)
  • Willis Bond & Co (Australian developer active at Hobsonville Point and downtown waterfront)

Government sector 'active observers'

  • NZTA - Peter Clark, Senior Advisor
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - David Hermans, Auckland Director
  • Minister for the Environment - Lesley Baddon, Manager, Urban Environment
  • Treasury - Chris Parker, Principal Advisor, Housing
  • Housing New Zealand - declined attendance