Labour Party leader Andrew Little has promised to embark on a massive state-backed house building programme to ease Tauranga's burgeoning problem of unaffordable houses.

News the value of an average house in Tauranga had jumped more than $100,000 over the past 12 months came as no surprise to Mr Little and Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford.

The two men were in Tauranga yesterday talking to Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns and visiting kiwifruit orchards in Te Puke.

Mr Little said cashed-up Aucklanders were helping to push up the market in Tauranga, shutting the door even harder on the dreams of young people to own their own home.


A critical problem was the lack of affordable housing in Auckland. If Auckland's housing problems could be fixed, it would take the pressure off places like Tauranga, he said.

Another downside of Tauranga's rocketing house market was that more people were finding it harder to find a good standard of rental accommodation, forcing increasing numbers into caravans and sleepouts.

Mr Twyford said decent emergency accommodation was "completely inadequate". Labour would make money available to remedy the shortage and fund essential support services to help homeless get their lives back on track.

"It will require strong Government action on a range of fronts."

He said the market was not delivering enough homes, leading to Labour's promise to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers.

"Most houses being built are at the higher end ... the Government has got to stimulate construction of houses for new home buyers."

Mr Twyford said the market was also rife with property speculators. Labour promised a crackdown, starting with a ban on non-resident foreigners buying existing houses.

TAURANGA TOUR: From left, Labour's Phil Twyford and Andrew Little at the Port of Tauranga with chief executive Mark Cairns as part of their Bay visit. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
TAURANGA TOUR: From left, Labour's Phil Twyford and Andrew Little at the Port of Tauranga with chief executive Mark Cairns as part of their Bay visit. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

Another major initiative would be changing planning rules to make it easier to generate the kind of housing that people wanted, he said.


Security of tenure was also a major issue for people living in rented accommodation, with more than half of New Zealand's population living in rentals. Labour was moving to stop people being "booted out at the drop of a hat" by reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act to deliver more security of tenure, he said.

A Private Member's Bill would also be introduced next month to improve standards of heating and ventilation in rental homes. It would extend the Government's moves to impose minimum standards for smoke alarms and insulation.

Though Tauranga's National MP Simon Bridges agreed housing was a "top-tier issue" issue in Tauranga, he said Labour's housing initiative was "completely unrealistic".

"There is simply not the ability to do what they are saying in the kind of time frame they are talking about.

"The Government has ambitious but achievable programmes that are delivering on this issue."

Thousands of homes were being worked on as part of the Special Housing Areas project in the Western Bay and KiwiSaver HomeStart grants would help hundreds of young couples get into their first homes, Mr Bridges said.


In response to Mr Twyford's comment that emergency housing was not up to scratch, Mr Bridges said he and his office had dealt with a lot of housing cases but he was yet to see a case where government agencies were not able to help.

"I think by and large people can be proud that New Zealand finds solutions for the most vulnerable."

He said there were grants and supplements to help people find accommodation and mentioned the recent $25,000 grant that had been given to Tauranga Moana Night Shelter to support the most vulnerable in Tauranga.