13 Apr 2015

Housing accord unlikely

5:34 pm on 13 April 2015

The two main political parties have poured cold water on a proposal for a cross-party accord to try to address Auckland's housing woes.

Sold house in Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

House prices in the city are continuing to soar - last month the average asking price reached a new record of $764,424.

Auckland's deputy mayor Penny Hulse said it was time political parties agreed on how to tackle the city's housing shortage and rapidly rising prices.

She said a housing solution required a strategy that went beyond the three-year political cycle.

But the Building and Housing Minister, Nick Smith, said he was unconvinced that an accord would achieve anything other than being a talk-fest.

"I don't think by bringing (in) other political parties we'll actually get the practical results that we need for families in a city like Auckland."

Nor does the Labour Party believe a cross-party accord could work.

Party leader Andrew Little said not only had the Government spurned Labour's previous offers to work collaboratively on housing, but it was also in denial about the Auckland housing crisis.

"All very well for Penny Hulse to call for that - I don't see the Government's got any intentions or any wish to do this.

"They don't even seem to accept - it seems to me - that there is a problem. One week there is a housing crisis, the next week there isn't.

"We've offered to work for the Government on it and they refuse."

Labour wants a state-funded building programme to create affordable homes.

Backing from Greens and NZ First

The Green Party's housing spokesperson, Kevin Hague, backed the idea of a cross-party accord. He said it was clear the country needed to find a solution to the "deep housing crisis" in the city.

He said he believed a lot could be gained from all political parties putting their heads together.

"I'm sceptical about whether the Government is actually politically courageous enough to be able to take on some of the issues that it will need to, to deflate the housing asset bubble in Auckland," he said. "But I won't know that until we start talking."

The New Zealand First housing spokesperson, Denis O'Rourke, said Ms Hulse's proposal was a superb idea, and Minister Nick Smith's dismissal was arrogant.

"I mean how can he say that, when he hasn't even attempted it?

"Really, that smacks of National Party arrogance doesn't it? They know everything, no-one else knows anything."

He said New Zealand First would be very keen indeed to help solve the housing crisis.

"And if that means working with other parties, compromising, listening to each other's ideas seeing what we can come up with, that would be very worthwhile and I'd be very keen to have a go."

Call for cross-party talks on Ak housing

At the weekend, Auckland's deputy mayor Penny Hulse called for political parties to agree on how to tackle the city's housing shortage and rapidly rising prices.

Minister Nick Smith said he was open to any idea which would help fix the problem, but did not think the idealised view of bringing political parties together will do it.

He said he was meeting with the mayor and deputy mayor of Auckland this week, as they continued to work on the issues.

Dr Smith said one of the reasons for the high house prices in Auckland was the spiralling cost of sections to build on.

The National-led Government has focused on increasing the land available for housing and providing subsidies for some lower-income first-home buyers.

The Salvation Army supports the idea of an accord but said it would be extremely difficult to achieve.

Long-term certainty needed

Major Campbell Roberts said the short-term nature of housing policy and interventions by successive governments had led to the current situation.

Housing policy changed with every electoral cycle, he said, but what was needed was an approach that looked forward 10 to 15 years to achieve sufficient housing stock.

"I think that if there could be agreement about the strategy, about the fact that we need so many social houses, we need this sort of approach, we need the sort of intermediate housing market where people moving out of social housing have affordable housing that they can get into.

"If we had those all agreed - that overall housing strategy - then I think that the parties could work within that and take their own particular points of interest," he said.

Major Roberts said an accord would give long-term certainty, but such an agreement was highly unlikely.