Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Budget 2013: Housing plan 'too little, too late'

Finance Minister Bill English, after delivering his fifth Budget to Parliament today. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Bill English, after delivering his fifth Budget to Parliament today. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Social housing is a big element of Bill English's fifth Budget, unveiled today, but the Government's new housing policy has been accused of doing little to ease the pressure for first-home buyers.

The policy, one of the key planks of today's Budget, includes legislation to speed up resource consents for new housing developments in areas of poor housing affordability - including in Auckland, where an accord with Auckland Council was announced last week.

It also gives the Government extra powers, including the ability to establish "special housing areas'' and issue resource consents itself.

Labour leader David Shearer said the Government had "ramped up'' expectations ahead of this year's Budget.

"They claimed there'd be relief for first-home buyers and that they'd tackle the affordable housing crisis. But all they're doing is repeating their hollow promise to get tough on councils over resource consents. It's time to get real.''

Mr Shearer said only his party's plan to build 100,000 affordable houses would make a real difference.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said emerging imbalances in the housing sector were dangerous for the economy.

"National's new housing policy is too little too late, and will serve the interests of property developers more than it will help first home buyers and those looking for a house to call home in Auckland,'' he said.

Dr Norman reiterated his party's call for a tax on capital gains, excluding the family home, to address the looming housing shortage and affordability crisis.

"National's ongoing failure to institute a capital gains tax means they're still to close the single largest remaining loophole in our income tax system.''

Both opposition leaders were critical of Finance Minister Bill English's fifth Budget overall.
Mr Shearer said National was relying on flogging off assets to solve the New Zealand's economic problems, but the country would be worse off in four years' time.

He said the Government would squeeze into surplus next year, after five deficits in row - by "overcharging for ACC'' and taxes on petrol.

Mr Shearer said unemployment would stay above five per cent, and growth would sit on an average of 2.5 per cent per year for the next five years.

"There's nothing that will change the lives of hard-working New Zealanders who are losing hope.''

Dr Norman said the Budget did nothing to address the "fundamental imbalances'' which were emerging in the economy.

He said the current account deficit was now forecast to rise to 6.5 per cent in 2017 - which would make the deficit the second worst in the developed world.

"This is a debt time bomb that a return to Government surplus alone will not address,'' Dr Norman said.

"Selling assets, massively increasing debt, a new housing bubble, and the earthquake rebuild might keep the train on the track until the election, but it will lead to major problems further down the track.

- APNZ

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