Paula Bennett & Nick Smith - Comments on housing
Today, Andrew Little has made several incorrect claims on this website about housing. We’d like to take the opportunity to correct these statements, because it’s important in a strong, robust democracy like ours that political leaders present facts to New Zealanders.
The Government has created 154 Special Housing Areas to bypass outdated council plans and make consenting easier so people can get on and build houses more quickly, releasing land for another 56,000 homes.
We have freed up enough surplus Crown land so far for nearly 1000 homes - 20 per cent of those must be affordable and 20 per cent social housing.
And we’ve made support available for first home buyers through our KiwiSaver HomeStart support. So far, 14,000 have taken it up. Most New Zealanders don’t expect the State to simply hand them a house – they want to be independent and work and save for their own future, but this policy gives those just starting out a bit of extra help. These grants are the most generous support a government has provided for first home buyers in more than a generation.
We are building 40 houses every working day in Auckland this year. That’s four times what it was when we came into office.
24,000 more people are working in the Auckland construction industry than two years ago, 40,000 across the country
There are currently 42,000 people training as apprentices across the country – the majority of which are in the priority trades.
We know that when the housing supply is constrained, it is particularly tough for more vulnerable New Zealanders. That’s why we have a huge work programme to increase the supply of social housing, and improve the way we support those with pressing housing need like homeless people.
We’re spending $34 million per week – around $2 billion every year – supporting New Zealanders with accommodation costs. This is includes close to $800 million subsidising the rents of social housing tenants.
The most important thing we can do is increase the supply of social housing, so that people with nowhere else to turn have a place to call home. Despite claims to the contrary, we are building more social housing, and working with community organisations who are increasing their supply too. We’ve got more than 1,000 contracted or under construction in Auckland – which is where they’re most needed right now.
Housing New Zealand’s budget for maintenance, upgrades and new houses has been ramped up from $566 million under Labour to $839 million this year, and over $1 billion per year for the next two years.
While we are absolutely committed to increasing the supply of housing for vulnerable New Zealanders, as winter approaches we want to ensure that we have short term options to get the homeless into somewhere more dry and secure. We don’t think it’s right that people should have to live in cars or on streets.
As a part of Budget 2016, we announced more than $41 million in new funding for emergency housing, which includes $8.5 million for a short term grant so that homeless who are put up in motels do not incur debt.
We are the first government to commit dedicated funding to community organisations who house the homeless, which will help these incredibly worthwhile groups not only keep their doors open but also increase the number of beds available.
Mr Little also says the Prime Minister was making up information about homeless people refusing assistance. The Labour leader is quite simply wrong. The Ministry of Social Development has been working closely with non-government organisations, and those non-government organisations have told us that some of the homeless they have been speaking to do not want our help. That is their right, but it is important they know that there is assistance available should they chose to take it up.
Labour has been all over the place on housing policy. They said Auckland’s Metropolitan Urban Limit was nothing to do with the problem but now say it must go. They cynically scapegoated the problem on people with Chinese-sounding names despite the evidence. They publicly supported transferring State houses to community housing providers but now oppose it. They have opposed the Special Housing Areas, the fast-track plans for the Auckland Unitary Plan, HomeStart and Loan to Value Ratio limits.
The Government’s approach has been considered and consistent and based on the thorough work of the Productivity Commission.
One thing we do agree with Mr Little on is where he says there is no single solution to addressing the housing challenges some people face. That’s why we are tackling housing from homelessness through to general supply.
What we have outlined above is only some of the much longer list of work this Government has undertaken to ensure all New Zealanders have somewhere they can call home.
Hon Paula Bennett – Minister for Social Housing
Hon Dr Nick Smith – Minister for Building and Housing