20 Feb 2017

Housing the hot issue in Mt Albert by-election

8:45 am on 20 February 2017

Housing is the top issue on the minds of both voters and candidates in this Saturday's Mt Albert by-election.

Home for sale

In the Mt Albert electorate only 36 percent of people own their own home, the seventh lowest level in the country. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Labour's candidate Jacinda Ardern is the favourite to replace David Shearer, who resigned at the end of last year to work for the United Nations in South Sudan.

National is not standing a candidate in the safe Labour seat, but the Greens have put up MP Julie Anne Genter.

Only 36 percent of people in the electorate own their own home, the seventh lowest level in the country, while 40 percent rent.

Average house prices are creeping above the $1 million mark and rents too are on the rise.

Ms Ardern said the median age in Mt Albert was about 33-years-old - so many people were renting or hoping to buy.

"Obviously, Labour's been really focused on what we can do to try and increase home ownership. We haven't given up on that and I don't think New Zealanders should either," she said.

"But we also have to acknowledge that there are more people who are relying on tenancy and unlike other countries, we haven't really got a system that's built around long-term tenancy."

Julie Anne Genter and Jacinda Ardern.

Julie Anne Genter and Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Green Party / RNZ

Ms Genter said it made sense that people wanted to live in central city suburbs, close to their jobs.

But she said it was becoming increasingly difficult to do so.

"What I've heard is that in many parts of the city now you get maybe three couples with good jobs all sharing a house in Grey Lynn, because that's the only way they can afford to live in the part of the city that's close to their jobs."

The candidate for Gareth Morgan's Opportunities Party, Geoff Simmons, said housing supply was an issue in Auckland.

But Mr Simmons said the major parties were avoiding talking about the role of the tax system in fuelling the housing problem.

"One of the major reasons why there isn't the supply is also because of the tax incentives. All the tax incentives for developers are to land bank, and that's why we're seeing that choke on supply.

"So actually a lot of it comes back to the tax system and that's the conversation neither of the major parties really want to have."

Ms Ardern said the high cost of housing in the area has flow-on effects for the community.

"I've tried to visit as many schools in the area as I could and even there, principals raising time and time again the pressure that housing is putting on their staffing.

"That'll be having an effect across a number of workplaces, but a large chunk of teachers just moving on to provincial areas, where it's just easier to survive on their teacher salaries."

Ms Genter said improving New Zealand's tenancy laws to give greater protection to renters has to be part of the solution to the housing crisis.

"If it's easier for people to be sure they can get a secure, high quality, long-term rental, then there's less pressure on the housing market.

"It's also possible that some landlords will decide it's not worth it for them to be landlords if they have to meet those requirements and they'll be more likely to sell-off their one or two rental properties, which means there are more houses for first-time home buyers."

Advance voting is already underway in Mt Albert, ahead of the by-election on Saturday.

The candidates

  • Adam Amos - Independent
  • Jacinda Ardern - Labour
  • Dale Arthur - Independent
  • Penny Bright - Independent
  • Patrick Brown - Communist League
  • Joe Carolan - Socialist - People Before Profit
  • Julie Anne Genter - Green Party
  • Abe Gray - Cannabis Party
  • Geoff Simmons - The Opportunities Party
  • Simon Smythe - Not a Party
  • Vin Tomar - New Zealand People's Party
  • Anthony Joseph J Van Den Heuvel - Human Rights Party
  • Peter Wakeman - Independent

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