Robertson defends Govt's housing package, saying it creates long-term solutions for supply, demand

Source: 1News

Finance Minister Grant Robertson is defending the Government’s major housing announcement yesterday, saying the challenge is that it’s trying to tackle both supply and demand simultaneously. 

It comes as many viewers told Breakfast the package did nothing to help them get ahead, that it was "too little too late", and that they would remain trapped in the rental market. 

Earlier in the show, Manukau Urban Māori Authority chair Bernie O'Donnell also said there was a lack of detail and action on social housing and the rental market in yesterday's announcement. 

Opposition leader Judith Collins yesterday called the package a "cheap swipe at landlords" and that it would mean fewer houses would be built or be available for rentals.

But Robertson said yesterday’s announcement couldn’t be taken on its own, and that it contributed to the Government’s overall housing programme. 

For example, the Government’s Progressive Home Ownership Fund was designed to bring people who couldn’t otherwise afford it into the housing market, Robertson said. The scheme had recently come under fire for housing just 12 families in seven months

Robertson said yesterday’s $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund for infrastructure and public, affordable and mixed housing addressed councils’ concern about the lack of “build-ready land”. 

“We can change all the planning rules in the world” but it wouldn’t be enough “until we actually get the pipes and roads and the drains”, he said. 

The Government was also training more workers to boost the construction sector’s capacity to build, he added, which would help make sure there was a pipeline of housing for the next 10 to 20 years.

Robertson said state housing was also being built or bought, adding 18,000 to the Government’s stock in the next few years. 

“There is some where we are bringing stock in, because we need to address those who want and need a public house, but we’re also building in significant numbers.”

But, he couldn’t say how many of the 18,000 would be newly-built or purchased from existing housing stock. 

Robertson added solving the lack of housing supply was a “collective issue”, and some solutions to this were “built in” to yesterday’s package. 

For example, with the extension of the bright-line test to ten years and the removal of an interest deductibility loophole , investors would be incentivised to build new houses because these only applied to existing stock, he said.

But, only time would tell what would happen to house prices, or whether there would be more first-home buyers at auctions, Robertson said. 

When asked if the package would mean house prices would fall, Robertson reiterated, as the Prime Minister had yesterday, it aimed to prevent “unsustainable increases” in property values.