New Zealand Budget 2016: Reaction to housing measures

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Youth lobby group Generation Zero labelled the Budget the "Band-Aid Budget"

"The housing policies announced in the Budget are band-aids more designed to ease criticism of the Government than to solve the housing crisis. We need leadership from central government on housing. Today they showed us very little" said Leroy Beckett, the group's Auckland director.

The headline announcements in Budget 2016 - $258 million in social housing and $100 million for surplus Crown land purchases - are designed to ramp up supply, particularly in Auckland, and offer support to families with desperate housing needs.

"The investments in social housing are much needed," Mr Beckett said.

"It's an emergency response though, more based on public relations than a thought out plan for solving the housing crisis.

"This continues the Government's unwillingness to commit fully to solve the housing issue in Auckland."

Mr Beckett warned against thinking any single measure would end the crisis overnight.

"There is no silver bullet for the housing crisis. The Auckland Council need to play their part by passing the Unitary Plan and central government need to invest in infrastructure which allows more affordable housing to be built. Without both working together we will be gridlocked," he said.

'Throwing money at problem'

The Government is throwing good money after bad regarding the extra $100 million boost to develop Auckland housing as announced in the budget, according to the Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams.

"Instead of cutting the regulatory taxes choking housing supply, once again politicians are trying fix a regulatory problem by throwing more money at it," Mr Williams said.

"The solution to Auckland's housing crisis is simple and free. Cut the regulatory red tape, adopt the Labour Party's policy of abolishing Auckland Council's metropolitan urban limit, and free up the limits on supply."

Mr Williams said the only silver lining from the Budget announcement was the reference to a new 'National Policy Statement on Urban Development'.

"A generation of renters are hoping that the policy statement comes soon and reins in those councils that are holding up housing supply," Mr Williams said.

Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church. Photo / Jason Oxenham

A missed opportunity

Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church had a mixed response to the Government's budget measures on housing.

"Any Government which touted itself as being able to solve the Auckland housing crisis on its own would need to embark upon a massive state-funded home building programme - and that simply isn't going to happen while Bill English holds the purse strings."

Mr Church said the Government had missed an opportunity to influence the housing market in other ways.

"While it's good to see that there has been no repeat of last years ill-considered attempts to artificially slow the housing market, and no mention of knee-jerk responses such as land taxes - it's disappointing that there are no positive initiatives to further encourage the private construction of new homes," he said.

Mr Church applauded the proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development, which directs councils to allow more housing development where necessary, but said it would not achieve what the Government is claiming for it.

"Opening up more land is a good thing - but any belief that doing so will reduce house prices is naive. We need tens of thousands of new homes in Auckland - so the best that can be hoped for is to reduce that backlog as quickly as possible so as to slow house price inflation down from its current dizzying heights. But house prices aren't going to drop anytime soon".

BNZ chief executive Anthony Healy. Photo / Mark Mitchell
BNZ chief executive Anthony Healy. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Thrilled about Community Finance funding

BNZ and Community Finance partners Good Shepherd New Zealand and The Salvation Army were delighted with the Budget announcement of $4.2 million of operating funding over four years for their Community Finance initiative.

Launched in 2014, Community Finance has approved more than 200 low-interest and no-interest loans to financially vulnerable New Zealanders who may not meet bank criteria, and as a result can be forced to take out loans with other providers at very high interest rates and fees.

BNZ estimates that the $500,000 of lending to date has saved Community Finance customers more than $280,000 when compared with borrowing the same amount through alternative lenders.

The additional funding will allow more community finance loan workers to be trained and the programme to be expanded beyond the initial trial regions of West and South Auckland.

BNZ Chief executive Anthony Healy said: "We are thrilled that the Government has decided to further invest in Community Finance and we applaud Ministers Bill English and Anne Tolley for their commitment to this initiative.

"BNZ has made available $60 million in capital to help a group of New Zealanders break the cycle of using unscrupulous lenders, who often charge crippling fees and penalty upon penalty. Community Finance offers these customers a fair, safe and affordable line of credit.

"Community Finance delivers more than just low and no interest loans. We know there are broader societal benefits. People learn budgeting skills. Being able to buy a new fridge can mean a healthier diet.

"A safe car can enable access to the job interviews and better employment prospects.

"Today's announcement will mean we can reach more people and get a better understanding of those broader benefits, and how the programme can help contribute to a higher achieving New Zealand."

Good Shepherd New Zealand chief executive Fleur Howard said Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand has led the development of community microfinance and financial inclusion programmes in Australia for over 30 years, impacting over 400,000 Australians on low incomes.

"We are looking forward to working with our partners to explore new and innovative ways to support our clients and continue to improve and expand Community Finance's operations across New Zealand."

Major Pam Waugh, Territorial Social Service Secretary, Salvation Army, said there have been many successful outcomes in family wellbeing through a reduction in financial stress and families achieving financial capability.

Community Finance currently operates from The Salvation Army Community Ministries' sites in Manukau and Henderson.

Social housing measures 'don't go far enough'

The community housing sector says the Government's Budget only partially delivers a meaningful solution to helping New Zealanders in dire need of affordable and social housing.

Community Housing Aotearoa Chief Executive Scott Figenshow said there is some good news in the Budget but the Government has not gone far enough to deliver co-ordinated solutions that work.

He welcomed money toward emergency housing, 750 more places on the social housing register, the Maori Housing Network, 940 units through the Crown land programme, $100 million capital fund for expanding the crown land programme, and continuation of the Warm Up NZ and Healthy Homes initiatives.

"These will go some way to address housing need in communities - but it won't go far enough.

"New supply alone doesn't help our lowest income families. We want to see the previous commitment honoured to deliver at least 40 per cent social and affordable housing on the Crown land.

"It's unclear whether the $100 million just lets one arm of the Crown pay the other for the land, or whether this will provide capital to get the affordable home built.

"This investment will allow people to move out of emergency housing, housing them in a secure, affordable home first. We see this as an endorsement of the Housing First approach that the sector has been calling for."

Mr Figenshow said the current Government has produced better results in the past, with the Social Housing Fund of $140 million which generated 890 community housing units between 2009 to 2012.

He said if the Government was serious about social investment and reducing inequality it would find an alternative social procurement approach "that would grow our sector".

Auckland Action Against Poverty's Sue Bradford. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Auckland Action Against Poverty's Sue Bradford. Photo / Jason Oxenham

State houses are the answer

Auckland Action Against Poverty(AAAP) spokeswoman Sue Bradford said with thousands of people homeless in Auckland alone, Bill English's budget is an insult to their desperate and immediate need.

"The Government says it will increase land supply in Auckland, but under the current regime all this is likely to do is create more opportunities for private developers and investors.

"English confirms a $41 million budget for emergency housing that offers no new beds over the coming year, despite demand which grows by the day.

"He adds a tiny amount - $200 million over four years - to the grants available to meet social housing need. Much of this will be soaked up by rising costs and subsidies without creating significant new housing," Ms Bradford said.

She said AAAP called "on the Government to immediately drop its commitment to state housing privatisation and commence a major state house build and acquisition programme, employing and training some of the 280,000 jobless people who are also largely ignored by this Budget".

- NZ Herald

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