Barry Soper is Newstalk ZB's Political Editor

Barry Soper: Housing, the Achilles heel of successive Governments

Minister Phil Twyford and new KiwiBuild home owners Derryn Jayne and Fletcher Ross stand with PM Jacinda Ardern outside their Papakura Home. Photo / Greg Bowker
Minister Phil Twyford and new KiwiBuild home owners Derryn Jayne and Fletcher Ross stand with PM Jacinda Ardern outside their Papakura Home. Photo / Greg Bowker

COMMENT:

Housing. It's been the Achilles heel of successive Governments for decades, starting with the first state house in Wellington's Miramar in 1937.

Since then, there have been many schemes aimed at giving people a roof over their heads.

In the mid 1970s the Government of Norman Kirk came up with the idea of Ohus, relocating people from urban settings to live in a communal environment in the country.

They approved more than 30 sites, mainly in remote communities, which were seen as an antidote to the ills of modern society.

The last one petered out in 2000, even though the scheme was scrapped by the Muldoon Government when it took office in 1975.

The point is Governments have given housing, or more importantly the lack of it, their best shot for yonks, but the problem's never been resolved.

It hasn't been helped over the past decade by a flood of immigration, along with a good portion of Kiwis returning home with pockets full of cash, pushing up the prices.

Housing was a policy platform for Labour with Kiwibuild, but they made the classic political mistake of tagging it to a target: 100,000 new houses over the next 10 years.

Of course, they won't be around to see if it's achieved.

With Auckland prices topping a million bucks at election time, few Kiwis could come within cooee of affording a deposit, let alone servicing a mortgage.

Now in many other centres, like Wellington and Queenstown, million-dollar homes are commonplace.

And that's not going to be helped with the Reserve Bank relaxing the amount of money a potential home owner has to find for a deposit which could rekindle the house buying frenzy by the well-heeled.

Complaints about Kiwibuild have flooded in thick and fast. Many of them are justified but some are not.

The object of the exercise was to make housing more affordable, but in a country that's crippled by the cost of ridiculous resource consents and the extortionate costs of building materials, not to mention the cost of money, that's nigh on impossible.

The Kiwibuild campaign hasn't been helped this week by its Minister Phil Twyford admitting the rules around flicking a house for profit under the scheme weren't run through Cabinet.

If a house allocated in a ballot is bought and flicked within three years, the owner gets to keep 70 percent of the profit. The Government retains the other 30 percent as a penalty. Before the rule change you'd have to refund the whole profit.

The significant change was signed off by Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, presumably in Winston Peters' absence, without reference to the Prime Minister, which says a lot about where the power lies.

For some of us, Ohus are beginning to look attractive.

- NZ Herald

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Barry Soper is Newstalk ZB's Political Editor

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