OPINION: ‘Major reforms needed in housing’

OPINION: Too many young New Zealanders are struggling to access affordable housing. We don’t build enough houses, and building them is too expensive.

At the same time, councils seem obsessed with efforts to slow things down. Parliament also won’t make the tough calls around structural reform.

This Government at least had a big idea to build 100,000 affordable homes, but KiwiBuild is turning out to be as much of a failure as National’s housing approach before it.

It will take a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth from vested interests, but until we seriously overhaul the RMA, very little will change.

Our primary planning law is nearly three decades old and it’s been bent and modified so many times it barely resembles the lofty framework Sir Geoffrey Palmer once envisaged.

But that framework is all about protectionism. Houses won’t get built fast enough while most of the cogs in the planning engine are focussed on slowing things down.

Parliament needs to pick up the challenge of putting in place a new set of legislative tools for house building. Tools that enable developments, force councils to act and let the private sector get on and build the houses we so desperately need.

Auckland is short about 50,000 houses. We need to build 14,000 a year to stay on top of population growth, yet we are only delivering around 10,000.

Auckland’s local government politicians proudly hold up the vast library of plans they have been working on, but those plans still constrain land supply in ways that will keep young Kiwis locked out of future housing.

Only by opening up new areas for land to be built on will Auckland be able to supply housing to meet future demand.

It’s basic economics that most of us learned in Form 4 but, for some reason, balancing supply and demand has long evaded us.

By making some tough calls about future growth, rezoning land that is being used inefficiently and providing upfront the public infrastructure, councils and government can open the door.

Re-arranging ministerial deckchairs won’t deliver more houses. Crushing the roadblocks in the way of the people who can actually build young Kiwis their future homes is a far better bet.

Jami-Lee Ross is MP for Botany