Solution to Auckland’s Housing Crisis Starts IN The House, From ACROSS The House

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On TV3’s The Nation, Auckland Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse (who’s rapidly becoming one of my favourite local body figures) made the case for a cross-party effort to solve Auckland’s escalating housing crisis.

This is a no-brainer. National’s clearly not up to the challenge of going it alone (not that they’re really trying very hard), and I commend Hulse for being unafraid to point out the areas in which we need to go further than what the existing Housing Accord provides for.

Where others might have contentedly rested on the not inconsiderable laurel of helping to produce a workable Accord with Central Government in the first place – or even attempted to play politics with the issue by simply labeling the entire thing a manifest Government failure unsolvable till after the next Election … Hulse has instead taken the more mature approach of actually sitting down and thinking about the problem, working out where the rest of the political system slots in to providing solutions, and then extending a veritable box-garden of olive branches out to other political actors from across the spectrum with a view to actually, as she puts it, getting the whole political system working towards “[getting] the diggers in the ground and the wheelbarrows wheeling concrete”.

This stands in marked contrast to Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford, whose attitude toward the cross-party collaboration in tackling this issue called for by Hulse can broadly be summed up as “blame National for lacking ideas, then refuse to actually stump up and try to help them out with some.”

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Needless to say, that’s exactly the inverse of Hulse’s sensible, solutions-driven approach; and tantamount to an effective admission from Labour that they don’t see themselves as having a meaningful role to play in sorting Auckland’s Housing Crisis until some hypothetical point in the far-off future when they may, possibly, find themselves an important player in the next Government.

That’s not good enough; and I can only look in askance at any national-level politician so evidently keen to abdicate responsibility when it comes to helping to sort the biggest issue in their portfolio. It almost makes one wonder why they’re wasting the nation’s time as an MP, given they could make pretty much exactly the same level of contribution from the relative political sidelines of the commentariat.

And while I’m not entirely surprised that Labour’s enthusiasm for bipartisanship apparently has difficulty extending all the way from voting in favour of National’s GCSB bill to co-operating with the Government on a little issue like housing; I’m nevertheless highly incensed that Twyford appears to have reconstrued Hulse’s call for “cross-party collaboration” as being restricted in ambit to members of the – and I quote – “two party system”.

Despite the dearest wishes of many of the apparatchiks and faithful of the Big Two, we are no longer living in the era of black-and-white televisions and electoral choices known as “FPP”.

Rising parties like New Zealand First and The Greens have hugely meaningful contributions to make on just about every issue; and it seems exceptionally churlish (particularly given Winston’s status as the most effective electoral candidate fielded by Labour in the last 30 years) for Twyford to blithely pretend that we don’t exist or aren’t relevant to the discussion just because he doesn’t wish to acknowledge that other parties might be more willing to step up where he’s stepped back and do their bit to help Auckland.

It’s exactly that sort of political chauvanism and casual “we know best” disregard for the legitimacy of external perspectives by first Labour and then National which necessitated our adoption of MMP in the first place.

Twyford’s sin of omission is particularly egregious given the litany of strong resonances between Hulse’s check-list of Things Central Government Can Do To Help The Auckland Housing Situation and extant New Zealand First policy. This substantive overlap renders New Zealand First something of a natural ally for Hulse on this issue – and given Labour’s apparent intransigence when it comes to advocating on behalf of Auckland at the Parliamentary level, potentially affords our city a vitally needed political ally able not only to assist on the national stage (or, more properly, National’s stage); but also able to bring to bear the best elements of its own highly relevant policy agenda (look out for a future blog post on this) in collaborative pursuit of a solution.

And let me put it this way: when Hulse says one of the two biggest roadblocks to sorting the Housing Crisis is wide-ranging (and unhelpful) fear harboured by others of appearing overtly “interventionist” … who better to wade into the situation than the Party which enthusiastically runs the most unabashedly #Interventionist economic policy of any in Parliament 😀 Indeed, our Housing policy quite explicitly calls for the state to directly intervene in the housing market through a combination of #Nationalizations, state apparatuses, and central planning.

I also must confess I found myself quietly enjoying watching Hulse skilfully and professionally raise many of the same talking points I’ve previously heard Winston conjure; but in such an urbane fashion that hardly anyone could possibly bat an eyelid.

For instance, while the pernicious impact of property speculation on housing affordability in Auckland is so widely acknowledged that it’s less Elephant in the Room than Carthaginian War-Machine Doing Circus Tricks On Dinner Table, Hulse also cleverly acknowledged the role that Central Government “population policy” (read: “Immigration”, inter alia) plays in fueling Auckland’s housing bubble. By pointing out that Auckland’s grown by somewhere in the area of fifty thousand people over the last year, yet only built five and a half thousand houses (of which, only a shocking 9% are “affordable”), she set out with cold, hard facts the reality that our city’s present rate of population growth (much of which is fueled by immigration) is patently unsustainable.

You’ll often hear Winston making exactly the same argument (or, at least, witness the seemingly inevitable backlash when he does); and when it came to some of Hulse’s proposed partial solutions for this part of the issue, she may as well quite literally have been reading off our policy manifesto/song-sheet. We’ve long advocated for the reinvigoration of our regional economies (which Hulse correctly labels “dying” in many instances) as an alternative to the present approach of allowing all the country’s economic eggs to domicile in one overpriced basket; and I was enormously pleased to hear Hulse champion our suggestion of redirecting migration flows away from Auckland out into those self-same Regions.

Great minds, as they say, think alike.

I’ll save the intriguing resonances between Hulse’s call for greater Central Government financing for urban development and a certain NZ First Youth policy proposal we got through NZF’s 2013 Convention for a future post (you’ll love this one!) … but for the moment, I don’t think it’s possible to overstate just how *enormously* grateful I am that Auckland’s evidently in possession of a perspicacious Deputy Mayor who combines an ability to think both creatively and rationally about a problem – and whose approach to the game is to actually regard it as a problem-solving rather than point-scoring exercise.

And that’s another vital overlap between Hulse’s modus operandi and the way we do things here in New Zealand First.

One of our sacrosanct guiding principles is the idea that those of us in politics owe a duty to our fellow New Zealanders to place the pursuit successful outcomes over and above petty partisan tribal loyalties – and to keep an open mind as to where some of the solutions of tomorrow might come from. Winston sums this up as a directive to “support good policy and oppose bad policy – no matter where it comes from”.

By attempting to bring together strands from all levels and persuasions of politics in search of solutions – and even extending a seemingly open invitation to *all* of our Parliamentary political parties to come, contribute ideas, and be part of the remedy – Hulse has acted in the highest and best traditions of both pragmatic realpolitik and principled #Multipartisan sentiment.*

It’s just a pity that Labour ain’t coming to the house-party.

*If you’re wondering why I’m insisting on being a bit different and using “Multipartisan” rather than “Bipartisan” … scroll your mind back up to the Phil Twyford bit of this article. “Bipartisan” implies there’s only two sides. It’s also what happens when Labour votes for National’s spying legislation.

The diversity of views in our post-FPP politics – particularly on the left wing – obviously militates against such an outmoded concept. From now on, the only time I’m going to use #Bipartisan in a positive sense is when I’m referring to something NZ First and The Greens agree on #BlackGreen2017

#ImNotBiPartisanImBiWinning

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’m sorry but Hulse lost credibility with her vote for relaxing the reclamation rules regarding filling in the Waitemata for another wharf extension and that we the public/ratepayers didn’t get a say. So why the consultative mature stance now?

    And as for the politicking that this blog is that all politicians serve the public, well that is not the real world.

    For starters just a few months ago with the housing market looking bad in Auckland, New Zealanders and especially Aucklanders were quite happy to vote for Nationals do nothing – leave the housing market as it is model, so this is the mess they created. Labour had plenty of excellent ideas for solving this disaster but greed and self-interest prevailed.

    On this subject I listened to the worst, most patsy interview I have heard on Radio NZ with Key yesterday by Guyon Espiner;

    Firstly Key says there is no housing bubble so we are off to a very bad start there.

    Then he claimed that the immigration factor is only because of skill shortages, but failed to acknowledge the extra-large amount of student migrants and temporary worker visas all of which take up space and of whom many are looking at residency anyway. And the real reason they are here in addition to their “official” status is to provide cheap labour who will not contest poor working conditions which in turn freeze wage rises. So we have a conflicting major, but very quietly kept policy, that will need to be halted.

    And then Key rounded off this clap trap by claiming there were “many, many $300 -500K houses in Auckland”. Oh dear John really?? And yet Housing NZ is now carving up its sizeable amount of land in Papakura, intended for State Housing, affordable housing for largely private development with only 15% aimed at “Social housing”

    There was NO mention of speculator investors both foreign and domestic either. Shamubeel Eaqub, NZIER principal economist was quoted as saying Auckland housing market has become a giant Ponzi scheme. Eaqub is the closest thing we have to an objective economist, never to be confused with bank economists who love National and their debt!

    Owing to their policies, their connections and their free market rules adherence when it suits , National cannot free up land and the people who own it are land banking to cash in on the bubble.

    And lastly there is no policy that National have of doing anything to encourage migrants to settle anywhere but Auckland.

    So when the PM is in denial so badly or more to the point down right misleading and the housing crisis is a conflicting mess of National Party policy both stated and unstated that are designed to serve their supporters and donors the only way out of this mess largely made by National is to remove them from the equation entirely. And until the next general election that ain’t going to happen.

    • Eaqub seems to be one of the few economists who actually looks at the real world that people live in. Most believe that their economic theories ARE the real world.

    • I’m in absolute agreement with XRAY on this one.

      The Key government knows perfectly well what needs to be done to fix the Auckland affordable housing problem. They just don’t want to do it. Why not? Because a large proportion of their voters own their own homes, and are therefore delighted to see the bubble (i.e. their investment in housing) grow to staggering proportions.

      I don’t think Twyford should be blamed at all for noting the obvious and responding to it in an entirely appropriate manner.

      In a scenario where everyone is playing politics, Twyford cannot be blamed for playing politics in his own way.

  2. Irrespective of the merits of supply constraints a solution to these can only be solved, at best, in the medium term. Contrary to Nationals newspeak the supply issues are not just a function of the RMA and other regulations, e.g. skills shortages, the time to build etcetera. Whilst Labours plan to increase the stock of State Houses is desirable it also faces the same constraints.
    The only short term measures that will work are those that dampen demand.
    The most obvious of these are;
    1) drastically reduction in immigration,
    2) prohibit foreign purchases of residential property – this to be monitored and enforced by the establishment and maintenance of a register – a quick fix may be possible via the existing land register.
    3) a tightening of the rules and policing of property investment rules with respect to taxation – ideally a comprehensive CGT but this is probably not politically expedient.

    The above measures are not rocket science and only require political will. Like all Ponzi / Pyramid schemes when this market crashes, and history tells us that eventually it will crash, the longer it is left to run the greater the hardship that will result.
    Labour’s attitude is yet another reason that I will not vote for them, in actuality they are still a variant of the neoliberal new labour party and care only for power.

  3. I’m assuming there must be an agenda here to push Penny Hulse for Mayor…. This party political collection of generalisations, and self serving praise tells me more about the self interest of the writer than anything useful to a mature debate on what is a much more important issue than one that should be used for partisan fingerpointing…..

    If Hulse was to be credible as a candidate, then her support base should be able to show her actual achievements, and policy directions without resorting to hypocritical criticism of political opponents….

    I despair of the NZ First party learning this one before they lose what credibility they gained with the Northland win….

  4. The problem with some kind of cross-party accord on the housing affordability problem are legion.

    The main problem is that National doesn’t actually want to solve it. Far too many people are feeling unaccountably rich with their mounting house prices that it is too tempting to leave well enough alone as developers continue to amass Politically Contributable fortunes. Why attack property values unless you are keen, as a right wing government to get voted out of office.

    their safest approach will be to look like they are doing something, while saying either it is someone else’s fault (preferably the Auckland City Council, because they might be persuaded to elect a Rightist candidate next time, or that no one can oppose the law of market forces.

    The second problem is that the Auckland Council don’t really have the stomach to fix the problem, either. Just as Christchurch’s boom is underwritten buy an influx of externally generated insurance money, so Auckland’s sudden wealth is largely underpinned by a massive influx of new externally generated money supplied the immigration boom. So much better to just pocket the extra cash without spending to make provision for the newcomers. (We also see this in schools who are delighted to take money from foreign students but won’t pay for the English language training and support that would help foreign students actually learn). You can hear it when Penny Hulse quickly rejects the notion of encouraging new arrivals to go elsewhere. As if that would be impossible.

    The only solution to the problem will be when there is political will. If the Left get mixed up in a plan which will be designed to fail then they will face equal, if unearned blame.

    In the meanwhile I suggest that those in Auckland who would like to buy a house, come south of the Bombays, south of the volcanos, south of Cook Strait even, and buy a house here.

    A young adult diaspora could reinvigorate the regions to our universal benefit.

  5. The point is, housing low income families has never been National’s policy it is not a philosophy they ascribe to – whereas Labour takes a different philosophical view – so, Curwen Ares Rolinson, the points you make are largely irrelevant, and quite frankly, nonsense.

  6. The housing affordability crisis is primarily an Auckland problem. Why is this so? It is so because the demand for more housing comes from unrestrained immigration, and most immigrants come to Auckland and choose to live there, where some like minded communities exist.

    It is the cowardly attitude and conduct of Central Government, one sided economists believing in growth of whatever sorts, and the laissez faire “experts” and “multi cultural” idealists that curtailing immigration is seen as “no option”.

    To reduce demand, the only sensible, affordable and logical solution is to reduce immigration, full stop. That though is not happening, as we have idiots follow dinosaur economics and policy, similar to telling parents, have more babies, as that will boost demand and stimulate the economy.

    While the living standards we have are largely only possible to sustain due to still using fossil fuels, the future looks bleak. No way will renewable energies and alternative energy use fully compensate burning fossil fuels, so we are going to have more people wanting to be fed, housed and employed, and enjoy social services, while resources deplete and cannot be fully replaced.

    The dinosaur minds of politicians, voters and economists force us into a disaster. Apply damned logical thinking now, please, or this country will be screwed like the rest of the world. Many migrants are actually fleeing places that are unsustainable, so to repeat the problems causing this here will not serve them either.

    I regret NZ is run by idiots ruling for dumbed down citizens, who do not apply long term thinking.

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