A postscript to the disaster that was the last Government's attempt to solve Auckland's housing crisis was presented to last week's Auckland Council Planning Committee meeting.

Back in September 2013, Housing Minister Nick Smith had pushed through legislation for a Housing Accord with Auckland Council with a system of Special Housing Areas to cut through planning red tape.

"This new law will deliver tens of thousands of new homes. The increased land supply will help take the pressure off the over-heated Auckland housing market and help the economic recovery. It will enable tens of thousands of Kiwi families to realise the dream of owning their own home," Smith said.

He told parliament "this bill is a laxative to get new houses flowing" from what was "a constipated planning system blocking new residential construction".


He said that "in essence it enables the least contentious 39,000 homes of the 400,000 proposed in Auckland's 30-year plan to be built over the next three years".

Four years on, last week's report to the planning committee revealed that far from enabling tens of thousands of new houses to flow onto the Auckland market, Dr Smith's magical laxative pills had resulted in a grand total of just 3157 completed dwellings in the SHAs between October 2013 and June 30, 2017. Another 2504 houses were, at that stage, still "under construction".

The report endeavours to sweeten the pill, as it were, by suggesting that as the 154 SHAs in theory contained "a total of 46,793 dwellings and sites" the Housing Accord target of 39,000 new sites and dwellings in three years had in fact been exceeded.

But with the SHA legislation now expired and only 3157 completed dwellings to show for it, this claim seems something of a bad joke.

As the recent Auckland Mayoral Housing Taskforce reported to Mayor Phil Goff in June, Auckland is growing by 45,000 residents a year and needs 14,000 new homes a year to say nothing of catching up on the historic shortfall of 35,000.

Yet in the three years of the accord, in which 39,000 houses were supposed to be built, less than half that number eventuated across Auckland as a whole, both inside and outside the SHAs. In 2014, just 5550 were completed, in 2015, 6520, and last year, 7200.

In launching his legislation, Dr Smith had declared "our job is to make the market work for people and for the country".

Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Illustration / Peter Bromhead

The only people the market worked for under the Smith regime were those speculating in the only game in town - the tax-free Auckland property market. But for the New Zealand families trying to realise the dream of owning their own home, the ones he'd said at the time could not afford the then $618,000 cost of the average Auckland home, his attempt to make the market work has been an abject failure.


Yesterday's front page underlined that, with news that Auckland ratepayers face a nervous wait as officials update the rateable value of their properties.

The revision is based on QV House Price Index figures showing the average value of an Auckland house had risen 40 per cent over the three years of the accord - from $720,426 in July 2014 to $1.04 million in July 2017. This is the "Auckland house price bubble" Smith's magical laxative pills were supposed to cure.

For the new Government, the ongoing housing crisis has to be top of the priority list as far as Auckland is concerned, regardless of how much Winston Peters might want to concentrate on putting Auckland's port under one arm and carrying it back to his North Auckland heartland.

The recent Mayoral Housing TaskForce Report is the latest "expert" analysis of the problem.

It notes that in the post-war boom between the 1950s-1970s, we coped with high population growth from migration and natural growth by building eight houses a year per 1000 people.

Since the 1980s, this ratio has dropped to about five homes per 1000. Their recommendations include "developing at scale," using investors "who can build through the dips," and further reforms of planning, zoning and consenting rules.

But to me, the key recommendation is surely the conclusion that it's past time for Auckland Council, central government and industry players to get cracking and start building.