15 May 2013

English promises significant housing package

10:00 pm on 15 May 2013

Finance Minister Bill English is promising that a significant housing package aimed at slowing the property market will be included in the Budget, but Opposition parties are sceptical.

Mr English spoke to reporters on Wednesday at a plant in Petone where the Budget he will deliver was being printed and said house price rises of 15% a year in Auckland are not good for the economy.

The minister said as business and residential housing investment picks up and the Canterbury rebuild gains momentum, New Zealand's current account deficit will get worse.

He said much of the initiatives on housing will be aimed at increasing the amount of house building, so high demand does not continue to drive up prices.

Mr English said the policies should benefit first-time home buyers by putting a brake on rising house prices.

But Opposition parties do not believe the Budget will do anything to put a brake on fast-rising house prices.

Labour Party leader David Shearer has no faith that Bill English will be able to slow prices anytime soon, without building more affordable homes.

"It sounds a little bit like false hope to me. Two years is a long way off; house prices are going to go up a long way in that time.

"The only way the Government's really going to be able to change this is rolling up their sleeves and building more houses - more affordable houses."

Mr Shearer said the Government has also ruled out doing anything about property speculation by not introducing a capital gains tax.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman is also sceptical, saying the Government has already shunned all of the serious ways to deal with high house prices.

"He's ruled out some of the key measures. We know that a capital gains tax, if you exclude the family home, would make a significant difference - the IMF (International Monetary Fund) agrees with that.

"We know that monetary policy reform would make a significant difference - the National Party's ruled that out, so they've ruled out using the key tools."

The Budget will be delivered on Thursday afternoon.