Community Housing Aotearoa Conference Speech
Tēnā koutou e nga maata waka.
Kia koutou te mana whenua tēnā koutou
Ngā mate huhua o te waa, haere, haere, haere atu ra.
Hoki mai kia tātou te kanohi ora e tau nei,
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.
Tēnā koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te rā.
nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa
Thank you for the invitation to be with you here at the Community Housing Aotearoa Conference. Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge Paul Gilberd and the other organisers of this event, and of course you the attendees. I can’t thank you enough for your efforts.
Through Covid and more recently during the recent devastating weather events your work not only as suppliers of houses but as organisations deeply embedded in your communities has been invaluable to us getting through. I have had the privilege of regularly meeting with many of you as you tirelessly worked through this incredibly difficult times - thank you for you mahi and for the care, compassion and aroha you showed.
Your work also continues to be invaluable, particularly as we all work to increase the amount of public housing with urgency.
But our work together is not limited to just delivering sorely needed public housing - over the last five years we have together rolled out a progressive home ownership scheme at a scale we have never seen before in this country. And, together we looking at how we can rebuild the affordable rental sector in New Zealand. I’ll come back to that later in my speech.
Together we have rolled Whai Kainga Whai Oranga - by Maori for Maori solutions for our housing crisis. I am immensely proud of this work. This is not just talk - with the money in this year’s budget there is now $1b available for this work. Minister Willie Jackson is leading a programme of work that repairs and improves existing houses, builds more houses for Maori including new homes on papakainga, allows for the infrastructure to build more houses and importantly boosts skills and resources to organisations can deliver Māori-led solutions.
Our work to tackle homelessness is another area where our partnership is critical - we need to do this together. Minister Marama Davidson is leading this work and this years budget had a focus on solutions for rangatahi homelessness. Transitional Housing provides warm, dry and safe short-term accommodation for people in need along with tailored support is an important part of our public housing Infrastructure.
Since October 2017, over 4,000 more transitional housing places are available up and down New Zealand, helping thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders and whānau, with more to come. Funding of $284 million through Budget 2022 is continuing to allow the Government to continue to build at pace and operate transitional housing.
For our government there has never been any doubt that there is a housing crisis. Over our five years in government we have had a unrelenting focus on ending that crisis. It is fixed yet? - of course not - there is still plenty of work to do but we are starting to see the green shoots of change.
Embedded deep within the DNA of the Labour Party and Labour Ministers of housing is an unwavering belief and commitment to the role of the government in housing. The market simply will not deliver for our most vulnerable and for nearly ninety years there has been an acceptance that there public provision of housing is needed for our most vulnerable.
I consider myself heir to an incredible Labour legacy in housing. From Micky Savage and Bob Semple onwards we have built houses. So far this Government has delivered almost 12,000 public homes, and more than 4,000 transitional homes. What’s more, right now there are over 4,500 public housing places under construction, many of which will be delivered by June 2024.
We are building more public homes in greater numbers than in decades. One in seven of the public houses that exist today were delivered by our Government in the last five years. This is simply staggering statistic — this is a build programme that started in 1937.
It’s fitting that this year’s theme is ‘unlocking the power of local.’ Local knowledge is critical to informing our approach to developing housing supply and solutions ‘one size fits all’ approach does not serve us all well.
Your local knowledge of what you see happening in your communities is critical to informing how the Government responds to the housing crisis, severe weather events, and the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis.
This is why planning for the housing and urban development system now takes a place-based approach that works in partnership with the Council, Iwi and housing providers in those regions.
As we know, fixing any crisis requires a collective effort – we all must do our part. So, while I believe passionately in an active role for the state in housing through Kainga Ora I do not for a moment believe that this means we can do it alone. We have to work in partnership with you, our community partners, our community housing providers. It is not a dichotomy of KO or CHPs. It is about how we can work in complimentary ways to provide houses.
Our actions and record attest to this commitment. When we came into Government there were 5000 CHP public housing places. As of March 2023 there are 12,175 places. That’s an increase of over 7000 places under our government. You can further see our support for and commitment to the CHP sector in the increase in funding to the community sector - from $95m in 2016/17 to $539m in 2021/22.
We have also entered into long term contracts with CHPs to unlock access to funding for the building of many of these homes. Usually these contacts are between 10 and 25 years. We currently have around 100 of these contracts with over 30 different CHPs.
So how did we get into our current housing crisis?
There are many complex causes of the housing crisis, but in the simplest terms, we are still grappling with decades of under-investment.
We are looking to address of these systemic barriers to having enough houses - whether they be publicly, community or privately owned, through our direct investment in housing infrastructure. For the first time since the 1970s, our Government is putting investment into the roads and the pipes that makes housing possible. There is $3.8b of this investment through the Housing Acceleration Fund and it is already being rolled out. This will allow us to build more houses including public houses.
But when it comes to the shortage of public housing we are currently experiencing - the causes are glaringly obvious. Between 2008 and 2017 there was a government intent on selling off state housing. The National Party will tell you that this is ok because it doesn’t matter who owns the houses and they were sold to community providers. That’s not correct. I have looked at the numbers and in 2017 when we came into government there were 1500 fewer public houses across both Housing NZ and CHPs than when we left office in 2008.
Not only were houses sold off there was an absolute failure to deliver. Then Housing NZ had essentially became an agency to sell off assets rather than build warm dry homes for New Zealanders. If the National Party had delivered at the rate we are over our first 6 years in government we would have an additional 20,000 public houses.
So when I hear the current National housing spokesperson trotting out the same old rhetoric about how a National Government are going to get out of the way and let the community sector provide; that it does not matter who owns the house I am afraid. When I hear the continued attacks on KO from the opposition and the at best disingenuous claims about how inefficient Kainga Ora is I am afraid. Claims that I heard from the National Party that Kainga Ora were gearing up to spend over a $1m per house from the funding in this year’s budget is wrong and misleading. This is what we have heard before and it is code for a dereliction of duty. It is code for pillaging and asset stripping. It is code for flogging off housing and failing to do your bit to add to the stock. It is code for not adequately funding the growth in Government operating funded needed to enable public housing whether it is delivered by KO or the CHP sector. It is code for a lack of commitment to public housing in New Zealand. This is a rational fear to have because this is what we saw between 2008 and 2017.
For our Government it is not a matter of the community sector or KO - it is a commitment to making funding available for both.
Over the last couple of years, as I have looked closely for the solutions we need to fix this crisis - to repair the scars of the decimation of public housing under the previous government - I have become more and more convinced that in setting up a competitive model between the state housing provider and CHPs an additional wound was inflicted. That was the provision of affordable social rentals - houses that sat between state houses and the private rental sector. Modest and affordable homes provided by councils, iwi and community organisations that with some capital support could be rented out at affordable rent levels and made good use of the accommodation supplement. In the affordable housing we are looking to heal this wound. The Affordable housing fund of $350m offers grant funding to not-for-profit organisations to deliver newly built affordable rental housing.
To be clear - this is not instead of IRRS funded places from our community sector it is in addition to and I consider absolutely necessary in fixing our current crisis.
That brings me to Budget 2023
I am proud to stand here following last week’s announcement of the 2023 Hipkins Labour Government Budget. Budget 2023 continues the Government’s commitment to tackle the housing shortage, supporting more people at risk of homelessness, building more houses for Māori and supporting those impacted by recent severe weather events. We are building on the Government’s record public housing programme, by providing funding to deliver 3,000 additional public homes by June 2025.
In Budget 23 we also set aside $465 million in ongoing operational funding for Income-Related Rent Subsidies, Subsidies, to deliver the additional 3,000 public homes by June 2025. Alongside the Operating Supplement these are key parts of sustaining the amount of additional public housing we have collectively created over the last six years. As you know, it is not capital spending alone that delivers public housing. IRRS & OS are the magical ingredients that make a house a public home.
To hear the National Party criticism that we have waited until an election year budget to confirm IRRS funding is again both disingenuous and misleading - in the last budget National delivered in 2017 there was $918m in operating funding, including IRRS, spread across CHPs and Housing NZ. This year, ongoing commitments through each of the 6 budgets we have delivered, we are on-track to spend over $1.8b. This is an 88% increase in funding. This is what real commitment to public housing in NZ looks like.
It is true that this years budget delivered funding out to June 2025 - this allows for the pipeline planning required to crack on. But let me be clear, all political parties at this election will need to show what their commitment in the next term looks like. All political parties will need to put their respective pennies down in their costed manifestos and tell the country how many places they are committed to delivering. Parties will need to demonstrate to the electorate where public housing sits in their priorities. How does it stack up against, say for example, tax cuts for some of the wealthiest NZers.
It is not enough to say that your grand plan is to let the community sector deliver and leave it at that. We need to see laid bare where that operating funding commitment sits. This is what a commitment to public housing, whether it is delivered by KO or you the community sector looks like.
Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 update – to June 2025
As I have you all in the room here today, I would like to give an update to the New Zealand Public Housing Plan which sets out the Government’s public housing supply intentions until June 2025.
The updated Public Housing Plan is a signal to Community Housing Providers, Kāinga Ora, and Māori and iwi partners where the additional delivery of housing will be focused out to June 2025.
I know that who will deliver this housing and where it will be delivered are burning questions.
On the who - I have asked Andrew Crisp and the HUD team to lead a process with Kāinga Ora, CHPs and councils to build a plan from the ground up. I want to understand the pipelines in the priority areas (which I will come back to) across all providers. It is my expectation that we will have an indicative plan by the end of June and have detailed delivery plans by August.
A focus for us going forward will be where we build public homes, particularly focusing on increasing supply in regions.
When I became the Minister of Housing one of the settings I looked at closely was the funding model that would allow us to build outside of our main metro cities. I had invaluable feedback from many of you in this room that the funding model did not stack up. We listened and we made changes. We increased the rent maxima outside of the cities and increased the operating supplement. This has paid dividends - we are seeing the fruits of this change in the form of new supply in places that bore some of the deepest scars of the state house sell off of the previous decade.
An increase from 1 place in October 2017 to 160 public housing places in Northland.
On the East Coast of the North Island, there were fewer than 40 Community Housing Provider Public Housing places in October 2017. Since then CHPs have been able to increase the number of places by over 120.
The Budget also provided a total of $700 million in IRRS funding to maintain delivery of the existing and planned public housing, reflecting the Government’s commitment to providing long-term, secure public housing. This funding is being used in part to fund the additional costs that need to be carried in making sure the funding settings are right for delivering on the plan.
We have shown our willingness to listen and act when it comes to getting those settings right and my commitment to you is to continue to do this.
Delivery to date has been strong and the funding for Income Related Rent Subsidy through Budget 2023 builds on this momentum, particularly in the regions.
I want us, collectively to go hunting for opportunities in the regions - in the places where it has been hard to build but we simply must. I want us to collectively sit around the table and identify the opportunities together.
When I look at the numbers across our regions - the scars of the damage wrecked by previous policy are all too stark. These are where we simply need to build back. In some places we are making good headway to healing the damage - in other places we will need to bring our collective energy and expertise.
In Dunedin a loss of 135 houses between 2008 and 2017
In the Far North a loss of 98 houses
In New Plymouth a loss of 115 houses
In Rotorua a loss of 42 houses
In Ruapehu a loss of 66 houses
In Hastings a loss of 192 houses
In Invercargill as loss of 77 houses
This is what we have to turn around together.
As providers of housing, you can see that there’s a lot of good work in progress, but there’s always more to do. More public houses need to be built as quickly as possible, so people can move into them and off the Public Housing Register.
We fix a housing crisis by building more houses. We fix a housing crisis by continuing to nurture and grow the intergenerational taonga of public housing we inherited from governments who had foresight and understood that as the heart of a decent and functioning society is the security of a home.
To close I will leave you with the words of Former Prime Minister Norman Kirk who said there are four things that matter to people: They have to have somewhere to live, food to eat, clothing to wear, and to have something to hope for.”
This Government’s vision for housing continues to be, that everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand lives in a happy, healthy, warm, dry home, and lives within a community that meets their needs and aspirations. CHP’s are critically important to communities and I thank you for your ongoing work and support.
Ngā mihi nui