Since the Government wants to blow its surplus billions on something useful this Christmas but can't decide exactly what we need, here's a suggestion.
It's not my idea, it came from Murray Kee, co-owner of a highly successful Auckland building business, Finesse Residential, at a family dinner the other night. We were talking about the most damaging social problem of our time, the cost of a home, and he said, "What the Government should do is sell houses on leasehold land."
A lightbulb lit up. Leasehold, as he explained, could get around the greatest barrier to home ownership these days, which is not the cost of construction but the price of land.
Take land and its development costs out of the equation and Murray reckons decent, three-bedroom, single-level homes could be priced at around $250,000. That sounds more like affordable housing than the $650,000 houses offered by "KiwiBuild".
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The Government has taken such a political hammering over KiwiBuild that it has gone quiet on housing. The subject was hardly mentioned in the Budget Policy Statement this week. All we got were vapid words on wellbeing and infrastructure again.
Yet housing remains the problem affecting more people than any other. If this Government wants to do something about inequality it should tackle home ownership. We must not have a generation rent. A place where half the population are tenants of the other half is not New Zealand.
To own a home is central to people's security, wellbeing, pride, family commitment and personal interest in a community and the country.
To have a home of your own you don't need to own the land it's on. Lessees of the Anglican Church's Melanesian Mission Trust own some of the most highly valued homes in Auckland. The Crown could provide leases at little or no charge.
It has plenty of available sites. In recent years governments have been demolishing state houses to build more units on the big sections that most urban homeowners subdivided and sold off long ago.
Last weekend the Herald reported 5000 state houses are being replaced over 10 years by 25,000 dwellings. Of those, 11,000 will be rentals and 13,000 sold under KiwiBuild or on the market. Mixed ownership is considered socially beneficial. But a greater social benefit could be gained by selling houses more cheaply and retaining the land.
Leasehold would let many more average-income households escape tenancy and start to build equity on a mortgage within their means. The lease might need to carry resale restrictions to stop the house price rapidly rising to the market level and keep it within reach of the lower paid.
However, Murray's business partner, Geoff Philson, says resale restrictions would "taint" the property. He suggests normal ground rent could be charged but subsidised on a means-tested basis like the existing accommodation benefit.
He would also allow the leasehold title to be freeholded at any time, perhaps at a discount for someone who has owned the home for, say, 10 years. A freehold purchase would provide the Crown with funds to provide another dwelling.
Murray says he suggested leasehold to Phil Twyford when Twyford was Minister of Housing but could not arouse his interest. Why not? This could be Labour's legacy project. It is high time, so help me, that Jacinda Ardern had something more important to announce than a ban on plastic cotton buds and fruit stickers.
As the Government plans to wipe out the Budget surplus this year and take on more debt, a leasehold housing programme could be very large indeed. We certainly need it at this point.
Housing was the single major blemish on the record of John Key's Government. His great contribution was to bring the country out of the global financial crisis sooner than almost any other, helped by the Christchurch rebuild and Key's contagious international confidence.
By 2013 we were no longer seeing so many young people depart for greener pastures. In fact, people were coming here. Net immigration was showing gains seldom seen for 40 years.
House prices had been rising rapidly on low interest rates before the global crisis but quickly recovered and rocketed away as immigrants arrived to find, to their surprise, no effective capital gains tax and no restriction on non-resident purchases.
By the time National decided to do something about this, introducing a bright line test in 2016, the horse had bolted. New Zealand had the world's most expensive housing relative to average income. Many had lost the Kiwi dream.
It should be Labour's historic mission to restore the dream, a project in the tradition of the first Labour Government. But today's Labour Party will need to be bolder and more imaginative than it has been in this Government so far.