English, Bennett signal 'significant' social housing announcement in Budget 2016; Bennett acknowledges housing crisis for homeless; English slams Auckland Council again; Smith denies housing crisis

English, Bennett signal 'significant' social housing announcement in Budget 2016; Bennett acknowledges housing crisis for homeless; English slams Auckland Council again; Smith denies housing crisis
Bill English at the Printlink printing plant in Petone on May 24 with his Budget 2016 speech. Photo by Bernard Hickey for Hive News.

By Bernard Hickey

Finance Minister Bill English and Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett have signalled a 'significant' announcement in Thursday's Budget 2016 aimed at reducing Auckland's housing shortages, potentially around the Government's reforms aimed at encouraging charities and other to build social houses.

Bennett told reporters the announcement would be significant, and English confirmed an announcement was coming, but he was careful to say big Government funding was not needed to address Auckland's housing issues.

"The (Social Housing) Minister, Paula Bennett, has signalled there'll be some measures in the Budget. The Government faces the same challenges as everyone else. Money is not the hurdle for getting more housing. It's actually getting houses," English said at the Petone printing planet where Budget 2016 was being printed on Tuesday. The Budget will unveiled at 2pm on Thursday.

"The Government's in the housing market. We've already secured 400-500 in the last 12 months. Our challenge is the same as everyone else's, which is just finding enough houses to fit our needs. There'll be some measures. No large amount of money will fix the problem if there aren't the houses to pay for. We can pay for as many houses as we can get," he said.

Earlier Bennett said in a Radio Live interview there would be announcement about social housing in the Budget. "Yes. I think it's significant," she said, while declining to give further detail.

The Government has been introducing reforms to the way it funds state houses so independent providers can also 'bid' to offer houses to those receiving an income related rent subsidy, which is how state house tenants received subsidised rents.

"You'll have to wait and see about the detail, but we're continuing with our changes in social housing and those changes mean that we've opened the opportunities for a whole lot of people to put their capital in to providing more social housing," said English, who is also the minister for Housing NZ Corp.

"The issue particularly in Auckland, is not a lack of finance, the issue is a lack of houses. We can pay for all the houses that we can procure. The limitation is how many houses are available and suitable for social housing. The limitation is not money," he said.

'There is no housing crisis'

Meanwhile, debate swirled over whether the Government saw the Auckland housing market as in a crisis or not. This followed Housing and Building Minister Nick Smith's commented yesterday that there was no crisis and people were 'dreaming' if they thought homelessness was a new thing in Auckland.

"The idea that that suddenly happened in May 2016 is a figment of some people's imagination," Smith said.

"These are long-term challenges," he said.

However, Bennett agreed that the situation in Auckland was a crisis for those not able to find a house.

"For those that haven't got one, that are living in cars, it certainly is," she said.

But English stopped short of calling it a crisis.

"For some individual families there are some real pressures. We're taking all the measures we can. The Government can assist when there's more houses on the ground and the real bottleneck here is the Auckland City Council to enable more houses on the ground," he said.

"I wouldn't use the word crisis. For some individual families there's some real pressures," he said.

Smith said he did not want to waste energy debating whether Auckland housing was a crisis or not, instead to prefer it calling a "challenge."

"That doesn't get any houses built. What we need to do is focus on those measures that will get more homes built, that will get more help for those families that are really struggling to get good quality accomodation," he said.

'Concerns over quality'

Smith said Auckland needed to be building 50-60 houses per working day, although he noted reports he had read today about quality concerns.

"Building inspectors across New Zealand are working every day on building sites. They are finding with the huge growth - we have got an extra 40,000 people working in home construction across New Zealand - that they are picking up issues of skills resulting in a greater level of building inspections failed," he said.

"What we don't want is to sit down in ten years' time having hugely increased the number of homes but then having quality problems with those homes. It's an issue that's been increasing over the past two years as the pace of home construction has gone and we are taking initiatives to respond to it. I am not overly concerned, it's just that stretch, that balance between getting as many homes constructed as possible while at the same time making sure that we are keeping those quality assurance systems robust so that Kiwis are getting quality homes that are going to last the long haul."

Smith said the Government would make an announcement on a National Policy Statement on urban land supply next week, while an infrastructure announcement was due in the Budget.

There are issues of getting infrastructure built on time and there is more that the government is doing there. Again, you will have to wait until the Budget," he said.

English vs Auckland Council

Meanwhile, English again blamed the Auckland Council for Auckland's housing supply shortages when challenged about whether Auckland was in crisis.

"The Government can assist when there's more houses on the ground and the real bottleneck here is the Auckland City Council to enable more houses on the ground. If they enable them we can pay for them. I wouldn't use the word crisis. For some individual families there's some real pressures. We'd probably argue with them or discuss with them about what they meant, but that's not a reason to stop houses being built," he said.

English said the Council could work through its infrastructure funding issues, but he said there were benefits to the Council from growth.

"A lot of cities around New Zealand would like to have the growth that Auckland has. There's tensions there, but I don't think anyone in Auckland thinks they should stop the city growing," he said.

Challenged about the Council's claims that it would need to pay NZ$17 billion for infrastructure for housing over the next 30 years, he said: "We're already in a process of very significant assistance to Auckland through the Central Rail Link. That negotiation is ongoing. There's anything up to a billion dollars involved in that. It's a pretty significant contribution. It does help them because it means they don't have to pay for the CRL so they have that ability to pay for other things."

He said crisis was a word that over-stated the issue.

"People can call it what they like, but what we know is that the way Auckland planning has worked, it has excluded low and middle income people from the housing market and we're now dealing with the accumulation of misdirected planning. The people who are hurt most by that are low and middle income families," he said.

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Homelessness is a terrible thing, it's not new but it's getting worse. I hope the government does indeed come up with "significant" solutions to Auckland's house shortages. The problem Joe Bloggs doesn't see, is that housing does take a VERY long time (I know I'm an Architect) and Joe Bloggs will expect the housing shortage to be resolved within a year or two, which is impossible


If only the government had more time to fix this... Would 8 years be enough time to make a difference?

@Plutocracy , get real it takes years to plan , subdivide, service and road and build a single house , let alone 600 or 700 houses


So you're saying 8 years isn't enough time?

Q) Do you know what wouldn't take 8 years to do?
A) Legislative changes to reduce investor / foreign demand and tempering the current immigration intake.

8 years of doing nothing was enough to get it to where we are now, so another 8 years of wiffle waffle should see it crash back to earth

Wouldn't take long to pass legislation to ring fence property losses, implement a land tax to prevent banking, require foreigners to build not buy, turn the immigration tap off. Sure supply would not increase overnight, but I bet ya demand will reduce significantly. But none of this will happen, so the madness will continue.

to build 1 house takes as long as building 1 million. Is not like the build one at a time, you hope!!!!


I don't like nor condone name calling, but I feel an exception must be made. Nick Smith is such a dickhead.

...let him live in car

Would he be smart enough to open it?


he would deny its a car


While Smith denies the car's existence, Key 'cannot recall' what a car is.

classic. best laugh i had all day

He tried to shift the blame on to Councillor Mike Lee.
Mike has a brlliant rebuttal on his blog....
Read the letter dated 16th May 2016


I would like to see some real statistics on homelessness , to understand the real extent of the problem . Only then can policy decisions be made

We seem to have a homlessness crisis, which seems to be hidden from view , and we dont actually what the truth is .

Boatman, homelessness has been on the rise for the last few years. It is driven by the cost of accommodation. I have raised it on many occasions. The Government doesn't want to get any stats on it because then they will have to answer to the true degree of the issue. They can't deny knowledge of it when there are official stats saying there is an issue.

There is nothing to stop the media from gathering their own stats Murray86......the whole purpose of the media is to be the go between of the people and the Government and bureaucracies......we are on a diet of carefully crafted media releases and opinion pieces rather than quality factual information........If the journalists want to prove their is homelessness then how about them walking the streets and giving us some numbers on the issue?!?......we have too much glitzmedia and not enough journalism in NZ......

I agree we don't know the basics like how many people go to Work and Income or Housing NZ and get declined assistance for valid purposes then we know nothing at all..........but it is up to the people to make these organisations accountable...........it is not enough to have the organisation and hope they are doing the job we must ensure they are doing their job.........the cultures inside our public services system is an issue and has always been an issue........NZ spends billions annually on all these services and there is only 4.5 million of us.......so what the hell are these providers actually undertaking? I am of the opinion that all these bureaucracies are having their Ministers on.......It is very difficult for any Minister to directly interfere in the running of any organisation .......... yet many voters think this can happen.......the Ministers can only set the rules and boundaries and the culture within these organisations seems to go into mockery mode interpreting them to fit the internal culture not the external users..........

hopefully the budget won't be more subsidies for landlords, which these coded messages sound like. if it is, it will exasperate the current crisis rather than helping fix it

thats what it sounds like to me , taxpayer money thrown at anyone that wants to buy a house and rent it out

Yes I think that you are right. They would rather appear to fix the symptoms by wasting our tax dollars, subsidising the landlords and fuelling the property investment frenzy. They need to address the causes of the problem, but they rather do anything other than that.

Housing NZ spending 1 Million a month on meth testing and clean-up. ... and rising.
If cannabis was legal I'd suggest we would not have this problem. Isn't it time re visited our drug laws?

Yes, but can you imagine the National government implementing evidence based policies? Obviously their track record doesn't inspire confidence.

Or maybe enforcing the current laws.

Of course, there is no mention of "crisis" in terms of the possibility of destabilizing asset bubbles. Those are behind us I guess.

Too many mixed messages that only draw one conclusion. They know it's election year next year so are wanting to make a few tinkerings to calm the yellers and screamers. So it will be a few more subsidies like topping up the AS etc. Housing NZ dividend will be put on hold somewhat maybe, and they will continue kicking the can down the road so long as they keep the poll numbers intact.

Are people living in cars so they can afford KFC,smokes and booze etc or just enjoying the back seat. Are the camping grounds fully booked?

a lot have been sold off to developers.

And the ones remaining don't allow long-term residents and/or are kicking them out.

There are not enough houses because National have done such a piss poor job of governing for the last eight years.

They have refused for year after year after year to try to address or acknowledge any of the massive issues with immigration, land banking, foreign buyers, building cartels, banking regulation, speculators, money laundering, tax policy and local government.

It's as if double digit house price inflation for the past four years has been some kind of joke to these muppets.

The chickens are coming home to roost.

I can't imagine any political party wanting to win the next election. Nationals ticking time bomb must be just about out of ticks. They have created an economy based on selling our power generation assets, selling our low population and selling our land assets and calling it foreign investment as though its a good thing and to our benefit. Productivity of exports hasn't gone up to match the population growth so we now have more people to share the countries wealth with and we have to build them the infrastructure of the Kiwi lifestyle at the tax payers expense. Or in truth we have degraded our lifestyle by overwhelming the infrastructure with immigrants. It sure is a celebration, we can be proud so many people want to live here.

interesting analogy, actually i think their time bomb ran out of ticks quite a while back and they've been borrowing them ever since. This means that when they get thrown out, societal memory will remember for longer and they'll stay in the opposition benches for longer. Ask Labour, they know about it. Helen and Micheal's ticking time bomb bit them.

They do seem keen to hold on until everything blows up in their face. National hate poor people but they operate with poverty thinking. Selling your stuff to pay debts and then borrowing more isn't a good process. The part of poverty thinking they haven't taken on is the sharing aspect, other than inviting a lot more people to live in their house.

we now have poor people owing the government thousands they will never pay because of that thinking.
they kick them out of state houses, not saying here they don't deserve that
then let them borrow to live in motels because they can not afford private rents even with the acom sup
and PB attitude oh well its better than borrowing off loan sharks.
they have no hope of paying this back so poor taxpayers will have to suck on this stupid policy in years to come when the money is written off

WINZ putting the poor into overpriced grotty motels while putting the $70,000 bill onto their WINZ debt is the ultimate example of Nationals current economic philosophy!
National is pleased with this outcome: it gets them out of Govt houses, the Govt houses get sold off, and the underclass get a double punishment - poor housing and large debts. Success for John Key and Paula Bennett.

yes but like all national policies the future taxpayer will end up paying that bill.
so in effect taxpayers are now subsidizing 3rd rate motel owners

They don't seem to get the concept of a win-win. If so, then building and maintaining state houses as a non-profit would be on the table. Accommodation, jobs, teaching and dissemination of building skills, health benefits. But no, it's more important to have a scapegoat loser to kick around than it is to actually solve problems or get anything done.

There is a shortage of tenants applying for rentals in Auckland. There are 4500 properties advertised on Trade Me. Why don't we match up the demand with the supply. Like put the people who want a house into what we have available. It is simple just pay the landlords the same as HNZ gets.
We should not have houses sitting empty while people are in need.

Yes, good idea. Any investment speculator who own more than 3 properties, should be obliged to have part of their portfolio as affordable housing.
Sliding scales: if you own 4-10 homes, 25%. 10-20 homes, 30%. etc.

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