Leonie Freeman is an incisive thought-leader when it comes to developments in the property world.
But she is also a major driver of change. As CEO of the Property Council New Zealand, Freeman is co-host of today's Green Property Summit. She has held major roles in the property sector spanning both public and private, from creating the concept of what is now realestate.co.nz to buying and transforming her own residential property management business. Fran O'Sullivan put some questions to Freeman.
Herald: You've got a strong grasp on the evolving property sector — both at the commercial and industrial end of the market and with the residential housing market. What do you see as the key priority in decarbonising the sector?
Leonie Freeman: A lot of work is being done in this space — many developments focus on getting Green Star or NabersNZ accreditation and there is an increasing awareness and commitment from owners, developers and customers for the footprint to be lowered. Transparency and evidence-based decision making is the key and ensuring that, across the whole sector, the levers used will achieve the outcomes that support both the environmental and business objectives. The incentive structure adopted is important and Government has big levers. It can pull in the public sector. The private sector can have fewer resources, but it is critical everyone is working together to achieve the stated objectives, and there is a level playing field.
Herald: Much of the focus is on the big emissions reductions that can be achieved through the "greening"of large scale commercial developments, but what about the residential sector?
Freeman: There has been a lot happening in the residential sector with green star rating, greater awareness of smaller houses with smaller footprints, solar power and double glazing. It is important for this to continue and ensure the incentives structure balances issues such as consenting, liability, etc. with innovative ideas that assist in the "greening" of the sector.
Herald: There is clear pressure on the housing market. The Government has extended the bright line test and will move to rule out the ability of residential property owners to deduct interest costs on loans. Where do you believe the focus needs to go to create sufficient housing for those who rent and those who want to own?
Freeman: This isn't an issue between those who rent and those who own — it isn't about someone being right and someone being wrong. We need all parties in the property eco-system.
We need to ensure that we have adequate housing across the whole continuum — everything from transitional, social, affordable and market housing.
This means a wide range of price points and types of housing.
Resource Management reform that incentivises developments at scale and pace while protecting our environmental bottom lines is key. Consenting and planning laws have to be easy to navigate and say "Yes" rather than "No" more often.
Ideas like fast-tracking of housing consents and finding ways to incentivise local councils to move quicker will help as well as ensuring the infrastructure is well-planned.
Workforce and capacity issues and building materials are additional considerations.
We need a response which brings the public, private sector, iwi and community housing sectors together to pull the levers they individually have in a cohesive manner — it can't be a one or the other solution. Ultimately more supply will be brought on board when we have the whole system aligned.
We also need new and alternative ideas like Build-to-Rent. This can be unlocked at very large scale soon and create large, long term rental options. This potential long-term secure accommodation for tenants is similar to what happens overseas in places like Europe and UK.
Herald: What other issues to you want to see addressed?
Freeman: We need to have a serious conversation about workforce supply and ensure we have the range of skills right across the sector that is required. Building materials are also a concern — we have seen much commentary around the availability of supply, quality and cost. We should think about whether our structures are fit for purpose in the 21st century and see what alternatives and what other levers we can use to ensure the quality of our product. This also goes back to the decarbonising of the industry and how we can reduce our emissions as a sector.
At the end of this we need a long-term plan focused on a clear vision and targets for our communities and cities. All parts of the property eco-system are involved and committed to these targets and transparent and evidence-based reporting is provided to ensure we are on track.