Labour promises affordable housing

Phil Twyford
Phil Twyford
The political battle lines are being drawn before September's election over affordable housing in Queenstown.

Labour announced yesterday it would build up to 1000 affordable homes in Queenstown over 10 years, each costing between about $300,000 and $400,000, should it get elected.

''We need to be more pro-development in this country,'' Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said.

He said the Government's approach of fast-tracked housing accords was not working and it needed to intervene to deal with a dire housing shortage.

Queenstown forms part of its already announced Kiwibuild policy, an ambitious plan to build 100,000 affordable homes over a decade to address the country's rising housing prices which, on some measures, are among the highest in the developed world.

The only other area in which Labour has mandated how many homes would be constructed under Kiwibuild is Canterbury, where 10,000 affordable homes would be built over four years.

In some cases, Mr Twyford says, a Labour-led government would partner

private-sector builders but it would also buy land and develop areas itself.

Labour has a stack of housing policies with various purposes, such as setting minimum insulation and heating standards for rented homes, a national policy standard to encourage councils to increase the rate at which homes are built and to have a portion of affordable stock, plus plans to ban foreigners from buying residential property.

Todd Barclay, the National Party's candidate for Finance Minister Bill English's Clutha-Southland seat, questioned the fiscal responsibility of the plan, saying the policy was spending more money the Government did not have, putting taxpayers further into debt.

''It's just a bit unclear where they will get that land from.''

In January, Prime Minister John Key said the Government had borrowed about $50 billion to see the country through the recession and to pay for earthquake reconstruction.

 - by David Williams 

Debt - something National is good at

The policy was spending more money the Government did not have, putting taxpayers further into debt , something National knows how to do very well, but they also sell off the assets with the best returns so the ability to pay the debt is reduced.

Labour's housing plan after the initial builds in plans to be almost cost neutral by using the proceeds from sales for the next lot of builds. Generated debt would be minimal.

Understanding the issues

The Queenstown affordable housing meeting on Tuesday was very useful.

Labour's local candidate, Liz Craig, presented a detailed understanding of the problem and Phil Twyford presented a set policies that would make a real difference to the affordability, efficiency and quality of housing in the Queenstown Lakes district and the rest of the country.

National's housing accord approach, which Todd Barclay outlined along with question about where the land would come from, is indicative of a policy looking for a problem.

There is no shortage of land for housing in Queenstown Lakes, while workers communte from more affordable homes in Cromwell, Wanaka, Kingston, Glenorchy and even as far South as Garston in Southland. There is actually enough land around Queenstown to meet market demand for the next 10 to 20 years.

Part of the problem is that land is being held by a few land-owners, and drip-fed to the market, pushing up prices artificially. Most housing is inefficiently built, relatively expensive to heat, and not well located for access to work, school, etc.

The Labour Party policies offer some real positive solutions, whilst the National Party approach simply can't - unless it gets a whole more innovative.

Some real choices this election.