National lacks credibility on housing | The Jackal

7 Jul 2020

National lacks credibility on housing

National MP Nicola Willis
Housing, which I would argue is a fundamental human right, has long been a problem in New Zealand. Not only do we have some of the most overpriced houses in the entire world, much of the housing stock is substandard and therefore affects not just people’s health and our standard of living, but also our productivity and subsequently the economy as well.

So what can be done about it? Well despite the National Party’s repeated claims, the Coalition Government has in fact been doing a lot to try and fix the housing crisis. Has it been enough? No! But we’re talking about a problem that has been decades in the making. For the right wing to argue that it should’ve been fixed in just one term of a Labour led Government is slightly absurd to say the least.

Through their own ineptitude, the National Party has little to no credibility on important issues like housing, and therefore are unable to effectively critique the current Government, which is a serious problem for political discourse at the moment. In fact much of the right wings criticism is for problems they ignored or largely created while in power, which makes their disapproval of the current administrations progress, albeit incremental, all a bit ridiculous!

Today, NZ Stuff reported:

National Party admits it sold too many state houses

National’s new housing spokesperson has admitted the party was wrong to sell and convert more state houses than it built when it was last in office.
Nicola Willis, who took the housing portfolio in a recent reshuffle, told RNZ the net reduction in state houses under the last National government showed that governments needed to continue increasing the number of state houses.
Willis said National sold or converted “a couple of thousand” state homes.
“I think what we can see from that is yes, the Government needs to build state houses,” she said.
Willis accepted there was net loss of state houses under National.

Now if only National would stop denying reality on all those other important issues as well.

Willis said National acknowledged government building was part of the solution to the housing crisis, but it had to be supplemented by things like reform of the Resource Management Act (RMA) and rental regulations, which were discouraging investment.

A large part of the problem is that many politicians view housing as a commodity and not as an essential service. It therefore doesn’t matter if the Resource Management Act gets repealed or if there’s a promise to build more state houses, because the crucial cause of housing being scarce and unaffordable will remain unless there is a fundamental change to how those in positions of power view their investments. That’s because the housing market isn’t governed by supply and demand, it’s currently governed by rich and powerful people’s greed.

There are 200,000 empty houses in New Zealand, many of them perfectly suited as places of residence. They sit vacant while various political factions endlessly argue about who has failed the most on housing. Invariably those assets will continue to gather dust while the often idle owner’s paper wealth increases. Unless a large chunk of those properties are reintroduced into the housing market, the problem of unaffordability, homelessness and a dilapidated rental stock will remain very strong handbrakes to any economic recovery post COVID-19.

The other problem is that the current Government, Banks and RBNZ have done everything they can to ensure the housing market remains over-inflated. A two-tier welfare system, mortgage holidays, business subsidies and an incredibly low OCR are all designed to stop the housing bubble from bursting. That’s because many politicians and public officials have investments that would be negatively affected if the market properly corrected itself. Nicola Willis for instance has pecuniary interests in at least four properties, meaning she, like most politicians, will never implement any policy that might decrease the excessive wealth tied up in property.

She said that National’s record on housing would have been better if it had been allowed to stay in power for longer, as many better, well-insulated houses were under construction when the party left government after the 2017 election.

This is just rubbish! There was no evidence that National was going to build anywhere near the number of state houses that New Zealand requires. In fact they spent most of their time in power denying there was a housing crisis at all.

The current government was also having difficulty defending its own record on housing. Its flagship KiwiBuild housing programme was meant to build thousands of homes a year, but to date, fewer than 400 have been completed.
It was so far behind that it would take more than 400 years to reach its ten-year goal of building 100,000 houses.
It had a far better record on state housing, adding thousands of houses to the stock, although this had not been enough to keep up with a skyrocketing housing wait list.
Willis said the latest figures were “an indictment on the Government”.

Unfortunately for political reporter Thomas Coughlan and the National Party's housing spokesperson, as of May 2020, 575 houses had been built and sold under the KiwiBuild scheme, with another 321 awaiting sale. By using out-dated figures, you’ve got to ask if Nicola Willis is suitable to be a Member of Parliament at all, let alone promoted into Todd Muller’s shadow cabinet? I mean where exactly is the merit in having a dishonest idiot at the table?

It’s one thing to finally admit that John Key oversaw a net reduction of state houses, but to then ignore that her own government used unfair criteria to remove thousands of people from the state housing waiting list is incredibly dishonest! There's no question that the current Government’s removal of those restrictions is why there’s a large increase in people on the list. To ignore this fact and claim a system that now better recognises the true depth of need in our communities is extremely deceitful, even by National Party standards.

You would have to be exceptionally biased to believe that the state housing mess that National created over nine long years could be fixed in just one term. But I guess delusion, plus a good amount of self-interest, is what still drives the National Party these days. It certainly appears to motivate Nicola Willis’ wilful ignorance of her own party’s woeful track record on housing.