Come on Phil Twyford – the government can do better than this!


On Friday the government announced it is spending $100 million to provide emergency housing for New Zealand tenants and families this winter with a staggering $37 million for motel accommodation.

It is stupid of the government to spend tens of millions on motel accommodation for homeless families when we have 33,000 empty homes in Auckland.

Instead of spending tens of millions on motels the government could signal the introduction of an Empty Homes Tax – as applies in Vancouver, Canada –  to penalize landlords who are keeping homes empty but making huge, untaxed, capital gains from these properties.

But on Saturday Housing Minister Phil Twyford ruled out an Empty Homes Tax in the meantime.

Instead taxpayers will foot the bill for landlords exploiting the Labour government’s terror of talking tax.

In June 2016 Auckland had 33,000 homes vacant – a vacancy rate of 6.6%, higher than any Australian city.

As well as fueling homelessness, the absence of these houses from the market is helping maintain high houses prices and high rents across the country.

TDB Recommends

Last week I quoted Twyford from 2013 on the issue of empty homes in Auckland:

“It’s madness, and says a lot about the housing crisis, that we’ve got thousands of homes deliberately left vacant by their owners while in South Auckland there are kids sleeping under bushes.”

Most New Zealanders would agree so come on Phil Twyford – the government can do better than your Friday announcement!

In Vancouver residential property owners submit an annual property tax declaration with the Empty Homes Tax set at 1% of the property value if the home has been unoccupied for more than four months of the previous year. Exemptions apply for houses being built or houses which are sold during the year.



  1. You could drive a bus through the outs of an empty home tax. It’s under renovation so therefore unfit to live in, I’m trying to rent it out but can’t get tenants, the last tenants rendered it unfit to inhabit pending repairs.

    And who would police such a tax, realistically and effectively. Empty houses are an ugly side effect of Nationals winner take all but undermining the investors long term would work better.

    This government are on a tight rope every day to get reelected, piss off too many and it’s all over, better to do what they’re doing.

    Of course the only two critics of their current initiative are yourself and National. Well maybe ACT too. Honest to God, after 9 years of National destroying, Housing NZ, and the mess it made it housing, does this government simply pluck houses out of its arse?

    Get real!

    • Yes Xray who wants to see national Back any time soon?

      They have wrecked our futures by their love of a reckless speculation of our resources, and cut and slash of our assets.

      National have turned this country into one of hate, division and depression.

      Labour needs time to meld our almost wrecked futures.

      Phil Twyford has the two most difficult portfolio’s and should be commended for his efforts to restore regional rail services and housing both viciously ruined by national.

    • Couldn’t agree more X Ray. I think some people are being ridiculously unreasonable in their expectations.

  2. Agree John. I met with him a few times pre election when the mantra was 100,000 Houses to be built by Labour over the next 10 years! He was going to repeal the Pt England Bill too! It was on the basis “if” Labour became the next government!
    Well, what a load a fuck’n bullshit! But hes not the only one.
    Whats happened to the fire & passion of the ‘slogan’ “Lets Do This!” It’s changed to, “Lets Do This …. within the BRR rules & over the next 10 years!?” I think theyre thinking too far ahead when theyre sitting at a wobbly table with 3 legs.
    There are no mavericks, charismatic leaders in this party, they are all conditioned to stand behind a populist leader who has only delivered the low hanging fruit policies that have sat in the “in-tray” for a few years & a few passed governments.
    If they thought a bit harder about how to the cure the major social issues. A State House Building is the answer. It’ll deliver on Health, Education, Poverty and then everything else that is wrong today.
    But with this bunch of lightweights, I think we need another election sooner than later …

    • Who wants more mavericks or charismatic photo-op celeb leaders ? What on earth do they accomplish ? John Key was one of them and that’s probably one of the reasons that we now lead the OECD in homelessness.

      A state house building program is clearly needed, and the coalition govt is embarking on one, but if the last govt get back in again, then they’ll quite likely just sell the houses off again.

      If Denny were right, and State Housing can deliver on health, education and poverty – all of which urgently need delivering on – then why on earth didn’t the National Govt do all this when they had not just the opportunity to do so, but a moral obligation ?

      Time for a little gravitas from government and from it’s woolly-headed foul-mouthed critics demonstrating how the education system has certainly failed.

      In the absence of magic wands and dictatorial powers, maraes and motel and hotels offer better interim winter shelter than cars and doorways.

      Blaming the current govt for the previous govt’s messes is as dumb as it comes.

      • Spot on Christine

        “In the absence of magic wands and dictatorial powers, maraes and motel and hotels offer better interim winter shelter than cars and doorways”

        …and tents.

      • Doing nothing Christine is what they’re doing other than holding talkfests that panders to lobbyists & sycophants is all good and will really solve everything? No.
        Like their fan club, theyre picking up where National have left off. Following the neoliberal austerity path on the way to achieving nothing but they will resort to mashing the numbers come election time.

        It’ll be best to have an election now…. See you at the next SA meeting sis! 🙂

        • ‘DENNY’, I agree with your criticism of the government, but having an election now will hardly solve anything.

          We will simply have a result that may be more of the same, as we got end of last year.

          Without any real alternative that is likely to get enough votes to push Labour further to the left of centre, and without the Greens offering a coherent enough alternative to Labour, voters are faced with more of the same BS.

          The MSM continues to feed the voters it reaches the same biased nonsense, that is the middle class that has vested interests in home ownership, that is too concerned in carrying on as usual, that is keen on career and self improvement for selfish reasons, and who does not honestly care much about the bottom lot in society.

          Division is everywhere, and the elite is keen on carrying on with the divide and rule agenda, no matter whether Labour (aka Nat Lite) or National are in power.

    • “Welfare officials have received an instruction from on high to be “flexible” and help the poor and homeless who seek special assistance grants this winter.

      Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced $37 million in urgent funding to provide accommodation for the homeless this winter and signalled a broader loosening of the welfare purse strings.

      The winter funding was not, she conceded, enough. Where further need was identified the Government would act on it.

      “We are telling our social services: ‘When people come with need, be flexible. Be flexible. Help them meet their needs. Our support network is there for a reason, so help them’.”

  3. Its a crisis that needs a crisis response. All the Auckland Homeless could be housed in Whangaparoa or Omaha. Simple. Requisition BEACH HOUSES under the Public Works Act.

    • On this blog, i had thought that most people were sane (in the broadest sense of the word) with intelligent contributions to make. Thank you for the reality check.

      • Under the Public Works Act an owner would be compensated at current valuation. Of course there are other workable alternatives to deal with this Crisis.

        1. Extending SQUATTERS RIGHTS to the homeless as is the case under common law in the United Kingdom where the owner retains ownership but not use rights.

        2. Expropriation where the owner loses the property because they are not using it.

        3. Extend a non-recourse loan to homeless people to purchase a home.

        The idea that There Is No Alternative is false. As regards sanity and reality checks. Check this: 40,000 homeless in a Rich Country which once prided itself on being Egalitarian.

        • I agree it is a crisis and a failure of the system that we have so many empty houses. Commandeering the family bach isn’t the answer, but addressing the unoccupied investor properties, especially those in foreign ownership, is probably closer to the mark.

    • Nailed it 100%!

      Time to seize properties and the Public works Act is ideal for that purpose. 33,000 empty homes in Aukkers could make a serious dent in homelessness!!

      Empty houses = the great failing of the capitalist system.

    • And what about all the live-in-able boats in marinas around Auckland. The ones in West Haven would make great student accommodation – better than paying the great ripoff of $290 a week for a student bedroom near the university!

  4. How about a government backed speculations unit compromised of financial experts to mentor homeless property investors? That way, the Ministry of Homeless Property Investors’ homeless could also buy houses they’d never live in. The homeless could continue living homelessly in the streets while the homes they own via the Ministry of Speculations would take advantage of the same tax free capital gains speculators can? Therefore, when the homeless sell their homes, they reap the capital gains! Everybody wins! Whoop!
    The problem for poor old phil is he’s got no balls. He needs to borrow a pair off national. They have plenty of balls, I think jonky had three balls, but no heart, brain or use.

    • 1000% spot on there COUNTRYBOY.

      You bought sanity to an unreal world today.



      The historic curse of John Key has now finally been visited on every other country he has chosen to curse and live.

      It is a fact that during the last decade, the US mainland, Hawaii, and NZ have all been at the centre of either earthquakes, volcanic activity, adverse weather events, or unstable governance.

      It just dawned on me that everywhere John Key has resided in has been severely affected by either earthquakes, floods, eruptions and unstable governments.

      I just hope that John key just resides elsewhere permanently now so NZ can find a way to recover from the earthquakes, floods, and all the other terrible effects this man has caused us all during his cured rein over us.

  5. No doubt a political decision… weighing up the potential damage/effect of the tax, with whatever else they have already signalled, factoring in whatever may be in the budget. They don’t want to get too many in the business/landlord sector offside, as they will still be trying to woo them on one hand, while at the same time being seen to address some festering long-term issues. Probably too soon yet to read it clearly, but no doubt the coalition’s many detractors will try to use this to get maximum leverage.

  6. I’ve got a garden shed – I’ll take two Phil! Three! Could fit three, yeah yeah! It’s bigger than average. The door only has one hinge, but that’s just cosmetic. It was like that after I yanked the mower ou- oh I mean it’s from the last beneficiary I kept in there. Yeah it’s all their fault. Can I get some money for repairs too, Phil? I can even provide them with a heater! – Hon, fetch the spare hot water bottle out of the cupboard, will ya! – Did I mention hot water is expensive around here? Like really, really expensive? /s

  7. Well if not empty homes tax what is the solution?

    I get that the tax would be impossible to enforce as OP says you can DRI e a hole through the loopholes.

    Minister says rent freezes are out.

    Is the govt going to drastically slow immigration for as long as it takes to get this under control because I’m not seeing other options?

  8. Having nationalised the ownership of 33000 houses into the state coffers, best tell Grant Robertson to have in the next budget extra allocations for;

    rates payment to the Auckland City Council
    property maintenance
    property insurance
    more property managers

    Am sure there are more outgoings for the state having taken ownership by force of 33000 houses and the land the sit on.

  9. How about the government make sure that every cent of that $100m go towards asset ownership for the homeless? Saying “We’re providing $100m to the poor” is pure politics: you can bet every penny goes straight into the pockets of the property-owning class. The devil will be in the details.

    This may provide some degree of relief to the homeless – and any relief at all, is overwhelmingly necessary – but at BEST, this promises to provide a “holiday for the homeless”: we’ll put you in accommodation and when winter’s up, get back on the street ya dirty beneficiary! And you can be sure property owners will charge everything including the kitchen sink to Government – “bathroom wasn’t left cleaner than when he moved in”; “left mud prints on the inside of the door once, floors need re-doing”; let’s not forget the “odour tax”, Phil!

    The bottom line is, professional property owners are rubbing their hands in glee: Labour just promised them a MASSIVE handout, and they’re already busy working out how to get as big a piece of that pie as they can get.

  10. Its very interesting how many grubby Landlords seem to be lurking on this blog. Don’t the oinks and squeals go up from the psuedo-Left whenever you start suggesting that Landlords and Property Hoarders need to share the wealth!

    Keep beating this drum John. Those 33 *thousand* empty homes are a disgraceful insult to the poor. They literally darken the land in places, where it seems a third of all apartments in some buildings never have any lights on at all. These properties need to be pried out of the grasping hands of their sociopathic owners. If pity, compassion and empathy won’t move them, then a tax would seem to be the only thing they understand.

    A tax on all land and property, with a rebate for effective utilisation would be a better approach, but if the best we can do is an Empty House Tax for now, then so be it.

  11. I believe that twit Twyford will resign from politics by the end of this first and last term by Labour, and if he does not, he will be gone once they have been voted out in 2020.

    What Labour and NZ First and their Greens supporters are doing is to try and do what is impossible. Leave the existing ‘market mechanism’ and the fiscal framework and rules largely in place, and produce ‘Kiwi Build’ homes that are supposed to be ‘affordable’ at 500,000 to 700,000 a piece, in locations that are mostly on the fringes of Auckland, far away from public transport and good road connections.

    The so called Unitec project will also become a fiasco, as developers will try and get their share of the cake, and the rest will be hardly ‘affordable’ for most, and they will not even get started on it before the next elections.

    The only way to create affordable housing is by significant state intervention, which would also necessitate a major adjustment on the housing market, downward that is. But as Labour and their ‘allies’ are too scared to upset the middle class voters, many owning homes with high values now, they will not push too hard, and we will never see the promised 10,000 homes a year materialise in the numbers and shapes and forms and prices as they were promised.

    Do not forget this:
    ‘ Opinion: Planning rules the cause of housing crisis’

    “Phil Twyford is the MP for Te Atatu and Labour’s Housing Spokesperson. Oliver Hartwich is the executive director of The New Zealand Initiative”

    So the man is in bed with the NZ Initiative, what was once the Business Round Table, and he is friends with Ockham Holdings, or Mark Todd, at least, it seems, one of the major developers here in Auckland.

    Watch this space, not so ‘socialist’ after all, our man in charge.

  12. When the war of P failed as well as private practise making a killing out of P hysteria and nobody knowing what level is actually harmful and how to easily get rid of it, and the costs of upgrades needed for old houses to meet current rental standards, building a house being a rout that is double or triple OZ, our building materials being ridiculously expensive, few tradies who seem competent, housing speculation became an international pastime in NZ, 0 percent tax havens to help hide money, the investor immigration category to buy up houses, the amount of international people who are allowed to buy houses but only live in them part of the year, so did NZ’s issues begin…

Comments are closed.