A new plan shows how and where the Government will build 8,000 new state housing places it funded in Budget 2020, Marc Daalder reports

Jacinda Ardern has kicked off the political year with a major announcement, promising hundreds of new state housing places in regional centres across the country.

With her Labour Party caucus gathering for a retreat in Nelson, Ardern and Housing Minister Megan Woods revealed the Government’s new Public Housing Plan, which outlines where more than 13,000 new public and transitional housing places will be built over the next four years. Of these, 8,000 were funded in last year’s Budget – split between 6,000 new public housing places and 2,000 new transitional homes.

“The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The plan confirms we are on track to deliver over 18,000 extra places by 2024 [since the 2017 election],” Ardern said.

“This is not only delivering more warm, dry public housing for those most vulnerable to housing shortages, but also boosts economic activity, jobs in the building sector, employment and apprenticeship opportunities for young people. Since November 2017 we have added 4579 newly built state homes across New Zealand; we are building more new public housing than any government has done in two decades.”

By the end of 2024, the Auckland region will have 40,000 public and transitional housing places and Wellington and Canterbury will each have around 10,000. Areas in serious need of more state housing like Northland, the Bay of Plenty, East Coast and Manawatu-Whanganui will also see a significant number of new builds.

Even the 13,000 units still to be built won’t be enough to handle the existing state housing waitlist, which added 7,000 people in the last year to reach a record high of 22,409 by the end of November.

Woods put the blame for the crisis on previous governments’ inaction on public housing.

“This follows decades of insufficient new housing stock being built and the selling off of thousands of state homes by the previous National Government,” she said.

“As this plan outlines, we will focus on building more public and transitional housing in New Zealand’s regions where population growth has significantly exceeded housing, leading to rent rises, housing shortages and deprivation.”

The plan will specifically target regional centres like Whanganui, Palmerston North, Napier, Hastings and Gisborne. As Newsroom reported earlier this week, house prices jumped 30 percent in Gisborne in the past year and the city is becoming less affordable every month.

However, Auckland will still see the vast majority of new builds over the next four years, followed by Wellington and then Canterbury.

Woods said iwi, local government and community housing providers could all provide solutions in scenarios where the Government’s own build programme falls short.

“Community Housing Providers and iwi and Māori housing providers will assist where Kāinga Ora can’t deliver, such as in Masterton where the public housing stock was sold off in 1999, or where a targeted housing approach is preferred. Local councils will complement this work and provide delivery in some places – especially where they have land and plans ready to go for new housing,” she said.

The Government is also continuing a review into settings of the housing market, announced by Finance Minister Grant Robertson late last year.

“We have been clear about the policy responses that we are not prepared to consider, but there are other options that need to be investigated,” he said at the time, referencing Ardern’s ruling out of any attempt to tax capital gains on property like other forms of income are currently taxed.

“Overly restrictive planning rules are one of the causes of high house prices and the replacement of the RMA is a priority to address that. We will build on the National Policy Statement on Urban Development and examine other potential barriers to affordable housing. Minister Woods is working on new and innovative ways to increase supply.”

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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