Banks' sprawl not wanted | The Jackal

1 Feb 2013

Banks' sprawl not wanted

Today, the Act party reported:

When questioned on TVNZ’s One News last night, a Fletcher Building representative confirmed they could “build significantly more” [houses] but their “biggest constraint is land availability.”

“ACT has said this from the start - no new land means no new houses, and the land that is available is too costly for first home owners,” Mr Banks said.

Land on the private market is often too expensive for first time homebuyers because foreign investors have pushed up its price. That, and the fact that there's no Capital Gains Tax on investment properties is why land is now priced out of the reach of your average Kiwi family.

“Both the 2025 Taskforce, in its 2009 report, and the Productivity Commission report of 2012 reach this conclusion.

However the Productivity Commission recommendation differs to Banks' interpretation, and the changes to the RMA that Act wants will assuredly mean uncontrolled urban sprawl and unregulated housing projects similar to those that caused the leaky buildings disaster.

Here's exactly what the Productivity Commission recommended in their 2012 Report (PDF):

Adopt a strategy that allows for both intensification within existing urban boundaries and orderly expansion beyond them.

They believe this is achievable by developing a more centralized mechanism to coordinate housing developments:

Planning must take account of the RMA, the Local Government Act (LGA) and the Land Transport Management Act (LTMA). These statutes have different legal purposes, timeframes, processes and criteria. With multiple participants and decision-makers, there is no single mechanism for facilitating engagement, securing agreement among participants and providing information for robust decision-making. The Government should consider the case for reviewing planning-related legislation.

Reviewing planning-related legislation and an orderly expansion into other areas available for construction is obviously different to what the Act party wants to see happen, and the fact that John Banks entirely fails to acknowledge that the Productivity Commission has also recommended further intensification says it all.

Len Brown has stated that the Auckland City Council will help the next governments housing initiatives by coordinating resource consents, which means there should be very little delay in getting the housing built that New Zealanders require... This has of course been totally ignored by the idiot Act party leader.

Leaving it up to the "free" market has clearly been a huge disaster and reducing the effectiveness of the RMA will not help that to change... In fact it's likely to make it worse.

Here's what the Productivity Commission means by reviewing planning-related legislation and an orderly expansion into other areas:

Resolving the issues surrounding the legal, institutional and decision-making frameworks in which urban planning occurs will take time. However, there are a number of measures that councils should progress that will remove impediments to the supply of housing. Specifically, a more balanced approach to urban planning is required in the interests of housing affordability. Land for housing can come from the development of brownfields sites, by infill development in existing suburbs and by making suitable greenfields sites available, ideally in a complementary manner and in a way that provides for substantial short, medium and long-term capacity.

All of these things can be achieved without the need for more urban sprawl, which effectively adds additional travel times to and from work, and along with the requirement for more costly infrastructure development, makes the Act party's policy in this area unproductive.

Auckland is already the largest city in the world in terms of landmass per head of population, increasing that to help property investors make more money is clearly not the answer.

“Labour and the Greens both claim they can provide affordable homes, yet their policies fail to address the problem of land supply.

“Rather than making houses more affordable for many, they would rather take money off all New Zealanders to subsidise houses for a few. This will not solve the problem.

The problem is that there are not enough houses available to first time homebuyers, which is why Labour and the Greens policies target both middle and low-income earners respectively.

The government already owns considerable amounts of residential land that can be used to build houses on. Increasing the amount of houses will help to keep land prices from increasing even further out of the reach of your average Kiwi family, even for those that don't take advantage of their housing policies.

Along with a CGT and restrictions to foreign investment, these are the only ways to remedy to issue of falling home ownership levels in New Zealand. In comparison to these excellent solutions, the senile fool John Banks has no answers.

“The only credible way to address housing unaffordability is to increase the supply of land. This can only happen if we significantly reform the RMA. It’s the RMA that gives local councils their power to restrict land for residential houses and to drown building projects in resource and building consents, and other red tape.

Red tape is often there for a very good reason, and there's enough land available to build on, it just needs a proactive government to actively find it and assign it to building houses. Not only does the government own vast amounts of acreage that can be used for housing, the free market is very slack at utilizing land efficiently.

There’s approximately 763 acres that are zoned Vacant Residential Property north of the Bombay hills that the government already owns that National could build on right now if it had the gumption to.

Most of the required infrastructure is already in place for this land that has a capital value of approximately $120 million. There’s also Defence owned land of 1,147 ha, Rail 1,365 ha and other 385 ha etc etc, some of which could be appropriated. So there's already lots of residential land available, which in my opinion makes urban sprawl entirely not required.