Solving New Zealand’s housing crisis

It is a political foot ball. Or at least that is how the issue of housing seems to be treated. Everyone wants to take possession of the ball, but no one seems to be able to decide a long term course of action for it once in their possession. Some want to boot it out because they are in denial there even is a housing problem. Others want to keep the ball on the field for as long as possible. The ordinary New Zealander is very much a spectator in a game which seems to be getting played by non-New Zealanders but on New Zealand soil. Such is the issue of housing.

It is an issue we can as a nation get in control of. But to do so, we must understand housing as an issue.

I would love to go flatting, meet new people and develop my social skills better in ways that simply cannot be done at home. But I am effectively priced out of the rental market in Christchurch, which is suffering the post disaster blues of there just simply not being enough affordable dwellings across all categories. Land lords have substantially hiked rents, whilst an influx of people to help with the rebuild is creating another set of pressures that looks set to persist for at least a few years.

The Government loves to blame the Resource Management Act for everything under the sun. In the case of housing, it blames land zoning, whilst quite deliberately ignoring the fact that land zoning plays a very important role as a planning tool. Land zoning is essential for classifying different types of use such as light commercial premises such as small businesses. It also comes in use when isolating hazard prone land such as that on an active flood plain or adjacent to a known fault line (case in point, Franz Josef – refer to Proposed Plan Change 7, Westland District Council). It also blames the R.M.A. for being too restrictive around the rules of subdividing land. As blame games go, this is getting rather old and it annoys me every time it comes up.

And yet, there are plenty of ways we could intervene:

1) An idea that reasonates with me is to prevent anyone from a country where New Zealanders cannot buy land, buying land here. It would force the Governments of those nations to talk to the New Zealand Government. It would quite quickly cool the market down. But is there any party brave enough to try passing the necessary legislation?

2) A Capital Gains Tax is another popular idea. It would not stop non-Kiwi’s buying, but it might put a check on the propensity of people buying investment properties that they have no intention of using. Even the Reserve Bank has suggested to Prime Minister John Key that he reconsider his anti-C.G.T. stance. Whether Mr Key does or not is another issue altogether.

3) Establishing a register of foreign owned assets in New Zealand. A register on its own will not do anything, though an effective one will tell New Zealanders, who owns what and whether they are actively using it.

4) Require property purchased by non-New Zealanders in New Zealand to be their primary property.

I can think of more if given the time, but I think a combination of these would go some way towards solving the housing crisis currently engulfing New Zealanders dreams of owning property in their own country.

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