By Bernard Hickey
Labour Leader Andrew Little has announced the second part of his party's election housing policy, saying a Labour Government would build an extra 1,000 net new state houses each year, funded at least partly by Housing NZ Corp not paying a dividend.
The assessment staff that had been moved out of Housing NZ and into Work and Income NZ (WINZ) under the current Government would also be moved back into Housing NZ, Little told The Nation in an interview on Saturday.
Housing New Zealand paid a dividend of NZ$108 million in 2014/15 and an extra 1,000 houses a year would cost NZ$350 million per year.
Labour announced on Thursday it would provide an extra NZ$60 million over four years to fund the provision of an extra 1,400 extra places for homeless people in emergency housing provided by Non-Government Organsiations. See our article here.
Labour is expected to announce the centrepiece of its Housing policy on Sunday, when it expected to give more detail on its Kiwibuild policy of building 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years for resale to first home buyers, its policy on taxation of rental property investors, and its policy of banning non-residents from buying existing homes.
Little told The Nation that the affordable houses would cost around NZ$400,000 to NZ$500,000.
Little later said in a speech at a Labour Party conference that a Labour Government would change Housing NZ from a corporation to a public service.
"National has used Housing NZ to profit from the most vulnerable and turned it into a glorified property management company," Little said.
“The Government is using the corporation as a cash cow as it sells-off state houses. Since National came to office it has taken NZ$664 million from Housing NZ in dividends and has only put in NZ$141 million – meaning it has stripped NZ$523 million out of the corporation," he said.
"How out of touch do you have to be to flog off two and a half thousand state houses – and plan on selling eight thousand more – all in the middle of a housing crisis? How is it that in the worst housing crisis in living memory the highest ambition National has for Housing New Zealand is to be a cash cow? Well with Labour, that stops."
Little would trim migration
Meanwhile, Little said he would look to cut back on the number of temporary work permits. He would not commit to a numerical target for cutting temporary work visas, other than to say a 5,000 increase in the last year was not justified as the economy slowed.
"That will shift around from one period to the next. Right now, I'd be cutting that number back. An extra 5,000 isn't justified. 38,000 word permits -- people coming here to fill vacancies in many cases that aren't here. That doesn't make sense," he said.
"That's what I'd be focusing on."
(Updated with more details, comments on migration)