Affordable housing action well underway

  • Phil Heatley

Housing Minister Phil Heatley says the Government is already in the process of implementing key components of the Productivity Commission’s advice to address affordable housing, and has plans for more action.

“Back in 2010 we received a landmark report from the Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group (HSAG). That report was the Government’s cornerstone for a programme of action that we’ve been steadily rolling out, and the Productivity Commission has endorsed that general direction.”

A range of initiatives already underway are aimed at meeting the growing demand for lower-cost housing.

“We need sound social housing and we owe it to the people who are finding the going tough, and to our 200,000 State house tenants, to find better options on a scale that will relieve housing pressures and boost productivity,” Mr Heatley says.

In Auckland, the first neighbourhood-based renewal programme, the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company, has been set up with the Auckland Council.

“This cutting-edge project aims to create a thriving, attractive, sustainable and self-reliant community across the broad Tāmaki area. We will be making smarter use of large sections and replacing very old housing,” Mr Heatley says.

The Hobsonville Land Company (HLC) has built 80 houses to date, and has plans for 570 more in the Buckley Precinct, including properties that will be as affordable as possible given the high-value site. It is working closely with the Auckland Council to eventually see 3000 houses on the Crown-owned land.

There is also an opportunity for the provision of lower-cost housing in a 200 to 240-house sub-division on Crown land in Weymouth, South Auckland.

The Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) is rolling out a number of exciting developments to make better use of Crown land, Mr Heatley says.

These include the 24-hectare McLennan Housing Development of 450 to 500 houses in Papakura, a major new building project constructing between 200 and 350 new houses in Christchurch, and a redevelopment housing project in Pomare.

“Each of these developments includes some state housing, but also properties for the community housing sector, first-home buyers and the open market. HNZC is wisely moving away from 100 per cent state housing on its subdivisions,” Mr Heatley says.

The Government has addressed one of the significant problems Māori face in building on land with many owners, by making it easier for land trusts and individuals to qualify for the special-purpose Kāinga Whenua loan. Changes announced recently by the Associate Housing Minister, Hon Tariana Turia, to be implemented from 1 December 2012, also extend Kāinga Whenua loans to include repairing existing homes on multiple-owned Māori land.

“We are also looking at how the Accommodation Supplement and Income Related Rents, which are costing over $2 billion a year, can be better used to assist community housing providers, and I expect a report on this at the end of the year,” Mr Heatley says.

A major plank of the HSAG report, which was endorsed by the Productivity Commission, was that non-government housing providers should be encouraged to provide social housing.

The Social Housing Unit (SHU), established as a result of the HSAG report, has been partnering with non-government housing providers to increase the amount of social housing and $104 million has been allocated for this purpose between 2012-2015.

“Despite these significant commitments the Government understands that the current level of SHU funding isn’t sufficient to help non-government housing providers to grow the scale of social housing that is needed.

“For that reason, next year the Social Housing Unit will pilot some small-scale transfers of HNZC properties or Crown land to community housing providers, and will also consider initiatives such as transferring tenancy management to providers and joint ventures,” Mr Heatley says.