Our housing realities

Columns
Friday, July 15, 2016

My grandmother tells me they were all talking about how to buy a house back in her day. I also remember it being talked about around the dinner table when I was a kid. It appears we haven’t moved far.

The easy option for this column would be to list all the things we are doing and tell you it’s all in hand.

The above is actually true. House construction is at a 10 year high.

Much more land has been opened up for housing. We’ve targeted speculators with new taxes. Hundreds of millions in first home buyer grants are available. And 42,000 new apprentices are in the pipeline.

I want to be able to tell you we’ll have it all fixed soon. I want to say your children will be able to afford a house next year. But it’s not that simple.

Instead, I’ll offer a some blunt yet needed words:

No amount of creative “government can solve the problem” type schemes will fix this.

We need more land opened up and less red tape, so the people that build houses can get on and do that. Government and over-regulation is not the solution. It’s been the problem for too many decades and governments don’t make good house builders.

Migration is not the cause.

It’s populist and sounds good at 6 o’clock. But unless we want to say no to Kiwis coming home, no to importing essential skills, and no to the valuable foreign student market, the easy immigration soundbites won’t help. Foreign buyers make up four per cent of house sales and a considerable amount of migration is actually our own choosing to move home.

Quick fixes could do more damage than good.

For every person wanting to buy a house, there’s another sitting there with a significant mortgage. Yes, we could shock the market, pass drastic law changes and intervene in the name of good politics. But the ramifications are massive. State intervention that sees thousands of families owing more to the bank than their assets are worth is a financial stability risk not worth entertaining.

The hard reality is that it comes down solely to supply. We need to open up more land. We need to push council to speed up their planning. And we need more pipes and roads in place to facilitate construction.

The practical solution of increasing land supply isn’t always exciting, but it’s what is needed and what is being delivered.

Jami-Lee Ross
Member of Parliament for Botany