Rodney Hide: Hone's on to a vote winner

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The big question is this: can Hone Harawira make his housing policy work? Photo / Greg Bowker
The big question is this: can Hone Harawira make his housing policy work? Photo / Greg Bowker

The stand-out winner of the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection was Hone Harawira. Oh, I know the votes cast say otherwise but, to me, Hone captured modern politics perfectly.

Hone's winning and deft move was to use the byelection to trump Labour's housing policy. It was superb left-wing politics.

Last year, the Labour Party promised 100,000 houses at $300,000 a house. The policy is for Government to finance and to build 10,000 houses a year to sell to first-home buyers. It was greeted with much hand-clapping and crowd cheering. Finally, something was to be done about high house prices.

But Hone neither clapped nor cheered. He considers Labour leader David Shearer way too stingy. Hone says the houses Labour promised are too few. And the too few being promised are too expensive.

Hone set about to promise much more. And he used the byelection to make his policy public. The Mana Party's policy is to have a government build 10,000 state houses a year.

So far, that's a match for Labour.

But Hone reckons a $300,000 Labour house is too expensive. Hone houses will be built for $200,000. There's the difference.

And it doesn't end there. Hone is promising first-home buyers finance through Te Puni Kokiri at whatever rate Government borrows at. That's now around 2.5 per cent. The government borrowing rate compares favourably to today's mortgage rate of 5.4 per cent. It's a huge saving.

Oh, and no deposit needed. Home buyers will be able to borrow all they need and, it seems, without limit. The only constraint is that you must be a first-home buyer and you must be Maori.

And, if no deposit and the government bond rate prove too much, don't worry: "Applicants will be able to negotiate mortgage arrangements that suit their circumstances".

So missing a few payments won't be a problem. That's the advantage of financing through Te Puni Kokiri, thereby cutting out what Hone calls the banks' "mean-spirited attitude to Maori homeowners".

Hone's initial policy is targeted at voters in the Maori seat of Ikaroa-Rawhiti. But no doubt as the general election looms Mana policy will be extended to cheap and easy loans for all, not just Maori.

A good half of all voters believe that they can vote themselves a house, a job, decent wages and cheap power. Well, that's what David Shearer is banking on.

And if you believe that, why hold back? Why vote for a $300,000 house when you can vote for a $200,000 house? Plus no deposit and cheap finance. Yup. Hone's on to a winner.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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