The Government is so haphazard on housing that the Minister of Finance wasn’t even aware Kāinga Ora has been spending millions buying houses out from under the nose of potential first-home buyers, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
Information supplied to the National Party by Housing Minister Megan Woods shows Kāinga Ora purchased five properties on Nelson St in Howick, Auckland for $4.8 million last year.
“The Finance Minister was red-faced at Select Committee today after being told this was happening on his watch,” Ms Collins says.
“How can this Government credibly claim to be looking out for first-home buyers when it is spending so much public money buying homes in Auckland before others can get a sniff?
“Rather than spending almost $5 million on just five houses to inflate its state housing portfolio, the Government should be building new houses elsewhere.
“I am aware of other houses in Auckland that have been purchased by Kāinga Ora at a cost of nearly a million per house.
“This Government cannot be trusted on housing. KiwiBuild has been a complete disaster while many of the state houses the Government claims to have built were either contracted or already under construction while the previous National Government was in power.
“It’s a tragedy that almost 15,000 families are waiting for state houses under this Government because of its inability to build houses and its meddling in the rental market.
“The previous National Government built more than 3200 state houses and left office with more than 27,000 homes in the development pipeline. If elected this year we will restart our good work by actually delivering on our policies and getting rid of the RMA.”
Momentum is building to reform the law around Unit Titles with almost 500 people lending their support to a petition calling for change, National’s Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye and Housing spokesperson Judith Collins say.
“In October, a group of property stakeholders launched a petition calling on the Government to urgently reform the Unit Titles Act 2010,” Ms Kaye says.
“This petition reflects good support for the Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill that Judith Collins and I launched more than a year ago,” Ms Kaye says.
The bill aims to:
- Improve the information disclosure regime to prospective buyers of units
- Strengthen the governance arrangements in relation to the body corporate, the entity responsible for the management and operation of a unit title complex (owner)
- Increase the professionalism and standards of body corporate managers
- Ensure planning and funding of long-term maintenance projects is adequate and proportionate to the size of the complex concerned
“This is particularly important for areas like Auckland Central where the numbers of multi-unit housing developments, and therefore unit titles, has increased dramatically over the past few years. It is my intention to hold a meeting of Body Corporate chairs and body corporate managers in Auckland central to discuss further steps to push for change,” Ms Kaye says.
“We have worked closely with a working group of leaders within the property sector on this bill. It’s widely accepted within the sector that the Act needs reform, and our bill addresses gaps that will make a huge difference.
“Unfortunately the Government hasn’t picked up the Bill. Public support is crucial to put pressure to ensure there are changes,” Ms Kaye says.
“The apartment sector is worth more than $50 billion and is continuing to grow,” Ms Collins says.
“It’s important we have robust laws in place for those who own, or want to buy, apartments.
“It’s encouraging that more than 500 people have already added their signatures, and I ask that anyone with an interest in better rules for apartments and body corporates does so before January 30,” Ms Collins says.
The petition can be found here.
National will scrap the KiwiBuild brand, stop wasting taxpayers’ money, and press ahead with initiatives that will actually put roofs over New Zealanders’ heads, Housing spokesperson Judith Collins and Social Housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor say.
“KiwiBuild is the biggest public policy failure in a generation. Smacking KiwiBuild stickers on houses actually makes them harder to sell, not easier,” Ms Collins says.
“When National left office we had more than 27,000 home in the development pipeline thanks to the work of HLC, which replaced rundown houses on large sections with three times the number of warm, dry homes. We will continue this good work if elected in 2020.
“National will continue to support those able to enter the private market through our KiwiSaver HomeStart grants of between $3000 and $5000 per person for purchasing an existing home or up to $10,000 for building or purchasing a new home.”
Mr O’Connor says National will better manage the Government’s financial investment in social housing assets to build more and improve the quality of our social housing stock.
“Labour should be ashamed of the fact its housing policies have seen the number of people waiting for state housing explode on its watch to almost 14,000 – it’s a national tragedy.
“National will right this wrong. We will prioritise our most vulnerable Kiwis and introduce a target to reduce the time it takes MSD to house Priority-A clients on the social housing register
“We will throw our weight behind the community housing sector, which wants to do more to help New Zealanders into homes but needs better support from government.
“This support may be in the form of rent-to-buy schemes, the development of housing bonds, shared equity schemes, underwriting the building of social housing by community housing providers, or a policy shift to allow housing providers to manage state homes.
“National is concerned about anti-social behaviours, such as violence and drug use, and is keen to make sure social housing is safe for everyone, including children.
“We will explore a Remind, Remedy, Remove system. This would see a housing provider given a warning (reminder) when poor behaviour is demonstrated; assistance to fix an issue (remedy); and in cases where a tenant refuses to change, they should be removed.
National is also considering:
- Introducing a dollar-for-dollar scheme with homeless shelters to either improve or expand their facilities and services
- Extending Housing First to help people off the streets and into stable housing, including those with mental health issues.
“National built well over 3000 state homes during our previous term in government. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and deliver for New Zealanders again if elected in 2020.”
Our Discussion Documents can be found HERE
National will repeal and replace the Resource Management Act, and reform New Zealand’s planning rules if elected in 2020, Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The RMA has failed in its duty to protect the environment and allow our infrastructure to grow. There is now widespread support for reforming how we manage our resources.
“The dream of home ownership is drifting further away in this country as the sight of hammers on building sites is replaced with people filling out forms and paying consultants.
“A National-led Government will replace the RMA with transitional legislation as we work towards getting a new development-friendly law in place that is efficient and predictable.
“The building and construction sector once exemplified the best ‘can-do’ spirit of New Zealand, but this has been ground out of people by planning rules and their application.
“It’s near impossible to get a resource consent within the statutory deadline of 20 working days. The cost of consenting can quickly run into the tens of thousands with council processing fees on top of planning consultants charging hundreds of dollars per hour.
“The RMA has become a foil for anti-competitive behaviour, whether it’s a supermarket chain spending years preventing a competitor from setting up business or a property developer using their privileged position to prevent houses being built nearby.
“National has worked with interest groups that are looking at solutions to the RMA’s failures. The work of the Environmental Defence Society, EMA, Planning Council, Business New Zealand, Infrastructure New Zealand and others feature prominently in the alternatives we present in our Building NZ discussion document.
“National has the political will to take on RMA reform because we believe our complicated planning rules are largely to blame for the unaffordability of houses and urban land.”
Our Discussion Documents can be found HERE
A group of property stakeholders have launched a petition urging the Government to urgently reform the Unit Titles Act, reaffirming support for the Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, launched a year ago by National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye.
“Today the Fix the Law for Apartments and Units (FLAU) group has launched a petition in the name of Charles Levin, calling on the government to urgently amend the Unit Titles Act,” Nikki Kaye says.
“Two years and one Housing Minister later, and there has still been no action from the Government in reforming the apartment sector worth more than $50 billion,” Judith Collins says.
“The Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill would strengthen the management of apartments and townhouses and address issues around a lack of transparency and inadequate long term planning.
“We must reduce homeowner disputes in multi-unit dwellings and help facilitate their resolution. For most people their home is the largest asset they have so when things go wrong there can be devastating and life-long impacts.
“The Bill aims to improve the information disclosure regime to prospective buyers of units and strengthen the governance arrangements in relation to the body corporate. It would increase the professionalism and standards of body corporate managers and ensure planning and funding of long-term maintenance projects is adequate and proportionate to the size of the complex concerned,” Judith Collins says.
“After discussions with apartment owners, property and legal organisations including body corporate chairs we know there is huge support for law reform in this area,” Nikki Kaye says.
“I would urge people to sign the petition and show their support for this rapidly growing yet poorly regulated sector.”
It’s worrying that two years into the Labour Government’s term, there are still a dozen areas where the KiwiBuild programme is considered to be high risk, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
KiwiBuild’s latest risk register, released under the Official Information Act, shows 12 areas with a high risk rating. The main areas of concern are the programme’s resourcing, its procurement processes, the quality of its investment decisions, and its ability to deliver.
“It didn’t take Labour long to raise the white flag with KiwiBuild, but the red flags that continue to fly over its housing programme should be of greater concern,” Ms Collins says.
“A dozen high risks would be concerning if KiwiBuild had just launched, but to still have so many after two years in Government and a nine-month reset speaks volumes about how incompetent Labour has been since day one.
“KiwiBuild has been in development, supposedly, since Annette King dreamed it up in the backseat of a car in 2012. Labour has had plenty of time to address these problems.
“New Housing Minister Megan Woods has shown she’s pretty good at apologising for Phil Twyford’s mistakes. She now needs to show what she will do to safeguard the hundreds of millions in taxpayer cash that’s been risked on underwriting KiwiBuild houses.”
The long-awaited KiwiBuild reset has proven to be a damp squib, with all the elements that made the policy unique now consigned to the rubbish bin, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“It’s pretty easy to achieve targets when there aren’t any, which appears to be the Government’s strategy on housing. This shouldn’t surprise given how averse it is to setting measurable targets in other areas like health and education.
“New Zealanders who dream of home ownership will feel justifiably let down by the KiwiBuild reset. The three key elements are gone – there’s no 100,000 homes target, price caps have been loosened and the asset test for ‘second chancers’ is no more.
“There were no new initiatives to speed up the delivery of houses. All we got from the new Housing Minister was a commitment to try harder. What are prospective first-home buyers supposed to do with that? It’s meant to be KiwiBuild, not KiwiHope.
“This is a massive retreat from the flashy promises that Labour fooled the public with for so many years. If they had taken this watered-down policy to the last election they would have been laughed out of town.
“More details are needed around the Government’s progressive ownership schemes. There may be some merit in this approach, but the devil is always in the detail – and Labour’s policies have a habit of being light on detail.
“For months I questioned whether the Government had robust processes in place to ensure houses were being built where there was need. Megan Woods now admits that wasn’t the case and the taxpayer has underwritten $200 million worth of houses that can’t be sold.
“At least, after two years in Government, Labour has finally figured out it should be building houses where people want them, not just wherever developers have spare land.
“Real change on housing will require RMA reform to eliminate red tape and bring down the cost of building for everyone. National invited Labour to work bipartisanly on this, but instead they set up a working group that won’t report back until it is too late to make changes in this term of government.
“Labour talked a big game on housing but has failed to deliver meaningful change. The only KiwiBuild target still standing is the one on the Government’s back if it doesn’t get this right.”
The signs aren’t looking good for KiwiBuild’s reboot on the back of news it has lost another member of its leadership team inside 12 months, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The resignation of Helen O’Sullivan as head of KiwiBuild Commercial, having only been appointed in February, is a terrible look after Stephen Barclay’s departure last year.
“Both only lasted a matter of months in their roles before they abandoned the sinking ship that is KiwiBuild – and who could blame them?
“The fact this has happened just before the so-called KiwiBuild reset is confirmation that Labour’s flagship election policy is beyond saving. It also looks like a vote of no confidence in Megan Woods’ ability to get her party’s main election promise off life support.
“KiwiBuild has been a failure since day one. All of its delivery targets have been either watered-down or abandoned, it has done virtually nothing to make housing more affordable across the board, and it has become a drain on taxpayers who have underwritten more than $660 million worth of homes and have already bought back 17 KiwiBuild homes that haven’t sold.
“How many more executives need to run for the lifeboats before the Government realises that KiwiBuild is headed for the bottom of the ocean?”
The Government needs to give property owners their rights back and stop people manipulating the Resource Management Act to their advantage, National’s RMA Reform spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“The Government’s independent review of the RMA needs to usher in meaningful changes that will break down barriers to getting things built in this country.
“The fact the Government has worked out it can't get its own KiwiBuild developments going without changing the rules shows just how bad it is for everyone else.
“My concern is that by waiting so long to undertake this piece of work, the Government has left it too late in the electoral cycle to act on it. This suggests they aren’t confident of getting NZ First and the Greens on the same page.
“The last thing New Zealanders want or need is yet another working group that kicks an important issue to touch until after the next election.
“The RMA is no longer fit for purpose and is too easily gamed. One problem is businesses being able to stymie nearby business developments because they are anti-competitive.
“Another is developers trying to stop someone else's housing development from going ahead because they want to get their houses sold first, to get maximum value.
“The RMA stops things from being done quickly. People can fulfil every requirement put to them by councils and still go through a long-winded and expensive process.
“The law has become extremely tied up in red tape. It's an incredibly complex area that needs to return to what it was to begin with: enabling legislation.
“National is the party that gets stuff done. We are working on our own RMA reforms to take to the next election, which will make it quicker for developers to get properties to market, bringing down the price and making it easier for people to build houses.
“We are open to working with the Labour-led Government on this reform if it can present sensible solutions that will deliver New Zealand the infrastructure it needs.”
The Auditor-General’s office has confirmed it will investigate concerns raised by National about taxpayer cash being used to underwrite KiwiBuild houses, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“I’ve discussed with the Auditor-General several concerns I have about the way KiwiBuild operated under former Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford. I’m glad his office agreed my concerns were worthy of further examination.
“In my view, serious questions need answering about the way taxpayer funds were used to prop up Labour’s flagship housing programme. My main concern is the suspicious-looking deal to underwrite houses already under construction in Canterbury and Auckland.
“KiwiBuild’s Cabinet paper made it clear the taxpayer underwrite – which guarantees developers a minimum price for houses that don’t sell – was for homes sold “off the plans” and offered for sale “in the first instance” to KiwiBuild buyers.
“But KiwiBuild underwrote a development in Otahuhu where all of the apartments were already complete. Council documents show the apartments were built to plans approved before the last election, and construction started before Phil Twyford became a Minister.
“The apartments were also unsuccessfully offered for sale at the same price KiwiBuild later underwrote them for.
“All of this runs contrary to what Cabinet had approved funding for. There was absolutely no benefit to taxpayers by underwriting these already complete apartments.
“Houses underwritten in Huapai, north of Auckland, and Canterbury fall into the same basket. They were under construction and unsuccessfully marketed well before KiwiBuild.
“What’s worse, the houses in Otahuhu, Huapai and Canterbury are all struggling to sell and the Government has been forced to step in and buy them with taxpayer cash.
“Phil Twyford committed to underwriting $660 million worth of KiwiBuild houses during his time in charge, leaving taxpayers with plenty of reasons to be worried.
“I’m very concerned that money has been appropriated by Cabinet and then used for a purpose that was not exactly agreed to. That is a serious issue and one for which Phil Twyford and any other Minister involved should be held to account."