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Standing room only at Housing Crisis Panel

Lecture Theatre one at the Faculty of Architecture and Design was over-flowing with people wanting to hear the political debate on the housing policies being proposed on Thursday 7 September.

PrefabNZ, the New Zealand Green Building Council and Community Housing Aotearoa co-hosted the FREE pre-election Housing Crisis panel. It was as popular with the general public as it was with those from the construction, housing and political sectors.

Guy Marriage, Senior Lecturer in Building Science at Victoria University of Wellington and a Board Member of PrefabNZ was the host and Chair. He introduced the panel Members:

Garry Moore, previous Mayor of Christchurch and Board Member of Community Housing Aotearoa, opened with the latest political polling results, ahead of the general election on 23 September. He then asked the politicians “How did we get to this mess? How can we learn from the mess we’re in and how can we change things to develop a new working framework for housing for all of us?”

Each spokesperson from the political parties participating took to the floor to outline their policies and pledges in the run up to the election.

Of notable absence was a representative for National Party, who were unable to find anyone to take part, despite the invitation being sent in May.

Anne Gibson has written a great overview of each Political party’s housing policies for the NZ Herald. Read it here

240 registered to attend. The Housing Crisis Panel was the opening event in the Festival of Architecture in Wellington, which ran from 7 – 17 September.

The audience was invited to participate by texting questions throughout the event. Over 60 questions were received. They are listed below.

Audience Questions (The first ones were asked):

LABOUR = Government procurement is the elephant in the room – Will your government buy large amounts of housing from offshore? And how will you deal with local construction industry reactions?
GREENS = How can we create a cross-party strategy for housing NZers? Which housing policies presented here tonight to other parties agree with?
NZ FIRST = Please comment on the concept of shared ownership housing, co-housing and other non-traditional home-financing methods
TOP = How do the parties plan to deal with the monopoly / duopoly of Fletchers and CHH and the strangle-hold they have on the cost and supply of building materials in NZ?

MAORI = How should the building code reflect more than the bare minimum and global implications of climate change? (The International Energy Agency pointed out NZ has lowest building code in the OECD of countries with a similar climate.)
SHAMUBEEL = Which country in the world is getting housing right? Are there international models we should look to emulate and what can we learn from them?
ALL = Which of the parties will agree to pick up the TOP policies on the Universal Basic Income if TOP don’t get 5%?
ANYONE = How can architecture students and the design community contribute to the housing problem in NZ?
COMMENT = MY KIDS want to vote – when will we make it possible for under-18s to contribute to their futures…

Additional audience questions:

  • Given that climate change is the largest crisis facing humankind, how can you ensure that NZ’s reactions to the housing crisis will act responsibly with respect to the global implications?
  • How would your party control overseas buyers from buying / investing in NZ properties?
  • How will we grow the skills and people to build far more homes?
  • How do you think growing inequality contributes to the housing crisis and how can your
  • party address this?
  • What do you need to be considered a ‘permanent NZ resident’?
  • Is it time to say goodbye to the ¼ acre house dream and embrace apartment living?
  • Should all properties be taxed, as is the case in most other OECD countries? (TOP proposes)
  • Do you think the tenancy tribunal is adequate for protecting renters’ rights – what do you
  • propose is the solution (Kayla, Renters United Wellington)
  • To the NZ First candidate – how will you pay for all your proposed policies?
  • How will your govt address vacant Housing NZ properties?
  • To what extent has housing policy been a deliberate strategy to help the wealthier in society make easy money at the expense of those who have been priced out of that overvalued market?
  • Will your party make land available for social housing?
  • How will Labour ensure homes remain affordable?
  • What happens to houses that don’t pass the WOF?
  • How will Labour work with community housing providers?
  • Why will Labour not tax the family home?
  • What are the parties going to do about land banking?
  • What about architectural competitions to generate new ideas for housing?
  • Can govt use the Public Works Act to compulsorily acquire privately held land banked areas in or near city centres to create Housing on National Significance is regularly done with Roads?
  • What will your party do to improve health outcomes and therefore equality for those in low quality housing?
  • Private covenants are causing large houses, not the RMA. What are the candidates and their parties going to do to get rid of private covenants?
  • How will these parties deliver the numbers of housing with an already stretched housing industry?
  • How will you reform Housing NZ?
  • Does the RMA and urban limits contribute to land banking?
  • Will Labour use public private partnerships to pay for housing promises? If so, what do they think about the huge and rising cost of public private finance loan payments in the UK?
  • Does your ‘urban vision’ include expanding the Metropolitan Urban Limit to expand the suburbs with nuclear family homes, or changing planning rules to encourage MDH?
  • What plans do you have for updating the building code to ensure affordable, healthy, energy efficient homes are built?
  • Will your party look at ways to facilitate co-housing, intentional communities, etc.?
  • How can these parties manage to build all these new houses with an already stretched construction industry?
  • Are any of the parties willing to address the outrageous profits that banks make off mortgages? Or to prohibit ‘floating’ or raising of interest rates on already-signed agreements?
  • If we put WOFs on rental accommodation, will the costs be passed on to tenants and then become unaffordable for some?
  • Won’t capital gains tax on house sales just move housing speculators into rental landlords?
  • What do you think is a fair cost per person to heat a house to a healthy level? Then why don’t we define our building WOF and NZ Building code to deliver to that cost?
  • How will your party make sure there are a variety of landlords providing social and affordable housing? And that these landlords are encouraged to be tenant-focused rather than overly bureaucratic?
  • How will smaller towns integrate public transport options into their centres when they are currently hollowing-out due to large malls and carparking on the outskirts of their centres?
  • What will your party do about land-banking? This is a bigger issue than RMA reform – seeing as Auckland and Christchurch both have new District Plans.
  • A big issue is the over-sized houses we are building due to land covenants – what are your parties going to do to get rid of private covenants which will then allow small warm and affordable houses everywhere in NZ (or to retrofit existing larger homes / McMansions)?
  • Would your party encourage local councils to speed up development by rating car-parks and existing low-density developments as ‘high-potential’?
  • How will your party make sure Housing NZ changes from being an overly bureaucratic landlord into one that offers an increased variety of social and affordable housing options?
  • What should be the Reserve Bank’s role in addressing property price escalation?
  • We all agree that we need new housing forms that are smaller and more dense, without being high-rise apartments. What would your party do to encourage low-rise medium-density (eg. 3-storey high) townhouse developments with shared outdoor spaces and car-pools, and without high developer profit margins?
  • Can the proposed 100,000 Kiwibuild houses be built at $350-400,000 which is the price I estimate I can afford as a university-educated (and debt laden) married person in my early 30s?
  • Housing is currently our defacto pension plan – so will a reform of the housing market mean a reform to pension options?
  • Should unhealthy homes be banned from the rental market? Perhaps for a minimum time, eg. 2 years, much like unhealthy (doped) athletes…
  • Are all parties, including the Greens, willing to enter public-private partnerships in order to deliver or expedite public transport infrastructure projects?
  • Have the issues regarding past building failures (moisture ingress) been adequately addressed? Will a rush to build thousands of new houses solve the housing crisis or develop new challenges in building failures?
  • Would there be banking reform that supports small private developers that favour innovative building methods?
  • How will you address discrimination against disabled tenants in the private rental market?
  • Where will the promised funding for housing come from? Surely it would be a mistake for this funding to come from offshore…?
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