Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Is National's housing policy enough?

The Government's plans for Auckland's housing market would see a net addition of almost 26,000 new homes built across ten years, including up to 6,000 state houses.

Minister for social housing Amy Adams has unveiled a new building programme that would see 34,211 new homes - an ambitious plan welcomed by some, yet also criticised for falling short of what's needed.

"These houses will be for our must vulnerable families, for first-home buyers and for the wider market," she said.

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These new homes would comprise of 20,671 affordable and market homes and 13,540 new social homes.

Adams classed affordable as those costing less than $650,000 but was unable to divulge the exact percentage of these that would be built.

Taking into account the 8,275 that will be demolished to make way for these new builds; this would see a net gain to the Auckland market of 25,936, of which Adams estimated between 5,000 to 6,000 would be social housing.

However, these figures fall far short of what the SuperCity will likely need as population growth and net migration put greater pressure on the housing market.

Amy Adams announced today National's new plan for affordable, market and social homes in Auckland. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Amy Adams announced today National's new plan for affordable, market and social homes in Auckland. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Auckland has an estimated shortage of around 35,000 homes, while latest figures on the Ministry of Social Development website shows 2,015 families were on a waiting list for a new property in the March 2017 quarter (a rise of 37 per cent on the previous year). An additional 1,289 were waiting to be transferred from an unsuitable property.

However, Adams said new housing supply was not just the Government's responsibility and it "overwhelmingly" comes from the private sector who owned more than 95 per cent of residential land in Auckland.

"The Crown Building Project is about how we will make the most of the 5 per cent of residential land we've got to meet the social housing needs of Auckland."

Last year Prime Minister Bill English, the then finance minister, promised to see a total of 4800 state homes built nationwide (2016 - 2019) - at least 3200 of these in Auckland - starting with 1300 in the year to June 2017.

The latest plans announced by Amy Adams saw the Government promise to ramp up construction further and build 4,305 state homes and 2,383 affordable and market homes in the SuperCity across the next four years - to a cost of $2.23b.

HNZ board chair Adrienne Cooper said nationwide there were projects also underway in Christchurch and Wellington and the state-housing provider was looking at "expanding its pipeline" to other areas of need.

However, recent figures showed last year's target for new state homes had already fallen far short; with only 200 state homes built nationwide between June last year, to March 31 this year - 79 of these were in Auckland.

But Adams remained "very confident" the latest targets could be met.

"That legwork has been done, we are on site now and we are building now and we have a high degree of confidence that it will be delivered as we set out."

She said HNZ already had a number of projects underway; in Northcote where 300 existing homes would be redeveloped into about 12000; Hobsonville Point where they had close to 1000 new homes and in Tamaki, where 3000 new houses would be built.

Adams said the latest announcement would add to this work.

She said social housing was a priority for the Government, but that affordable and market homes were an equally important part of the housing continuum.

"While it is those on the lowest incomes who are most affected by the current housing pressure, others are too."

Property Institute of New Zealand chief executive Ashley Church applauded the news, saying it would go a long way toward addressing the city's supply issues - but also expressed concern the rates of build wouldn't keep up with demand.

"That's not to be sneezed at - but it's a long way short of the 40,000 we need right now."

He also called for the Government to reveal more about what it would do to actually help people into the market.

"These units won't mean much if young people can't afford to buy them - so we'll be looking forward to seeing what else the Government plans to do to help first-home buyers into the market."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw also said the policy fell short of the estimated 15,000 needed each year.

Director of The Salvation Army's Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit Ian Hutson said the announcement reflected some welcome commitment towards the issue of housing.

But he raised a number of concerns about its ability to meet the existing and projected demand; how existing tenants living in the houses to be demolished would be dealt with, and called for clarity around the number and types of affordable houses that would be built.

- NZ Herald

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