Ardern versus English, round 1

Jacinda Ardern didn’t have much time today to prepare for her opening round as Labour leader against Bill English in Question Time.

HousingDemand and Pricing

1. JACINDA ARDERN (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on the housing crisis that “I wouldn’t call it a crisis. We have strong demand, we have an uplift in prices—these are good problems to have actually.”?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): First of all, can I congratulate the member on her new role as Leader of the Opposition. I stand by my full statement on emergency housing special-needs grants, which went on to say: “This is trying to deal with the real need that may have been hidden before, … more houses on the ground is what’s going to matter and more emergency housing.” I also stand by my statement that this is the first Government to ever invest directly in emergency housing—around $300 million—creating 8,000 places in transitional housing. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before I call the member for a supplementary question—I can appreciate that there may be cause for a little bit of excitement, but there still has to be a process by which questions are asked and answers are heard. I will accept a reasonable amount of interjection, but if it gets to the stage where it is unruly and causing problems, I will not hesitate to be asking some members to leave the Chamber.

Jacinda Ardern: How long has this issue been “hidden” for, as he claims, when we now have the worst homelessness in the OECD?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I simply disagree with the member’s assertion around international comparisons. What is relevant for New Zealand is that in the face of what was a sharply rising housing market, which has now calmed down a bit, we have provided extensive emergency housing, of which there are today 1,500 places tenanted and available, as well as expanded the Housing First programme, which deals with people who are actually sleeping rough because there is nowhere that they have shelter.

Jacinda Ardern: If it is not a crisis, how did his Government get into a situation where it needs to spend $139,000 a day putting homeless people up in motels?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Opposition cannot have it both ways: that the Government is not doing enough but is spending too much. The fact is that a fast-rising housing market, driven mainly by big problems with our planning system, means that low and middle income families are most affected. The Government has responded with extensive investment in transitional housing and housing for those who are actually sleeping rough.

Jacinda Ardern: If the Government has responded as he claims, why for every family he expected to request an emergency housing grant did 20 turn up? Does that mean the homelessness problem is far bigger than he accepts?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is all old news; that all happened last winter, when the grants were put in place, and it turned out there was strong demand for the grants. The next step in dealing with rising housing costs was announced in the Budget with the Family Incomes Package, where families with the highest housing costs will, at 1 April next year, be receiving in many cases over $100 a week more accommodation assistance to help them with their housing costs.

Jacinda Ardern: If this issue is so last winter, why are we paying $139,000 a day to pick up a problem that he has still not addressed?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The problem is being addressed in a wide number of ways, because it needs to be. We need more houses on the ground, faster. That is why we work with counsellors and put up a billion dollars for housing infrastructure, more emergency housing, and more social housing. I want to acknowledge the support of the Greens and New Zealand First for the increases in accommodation supplement, which on 1 April will help thousands of families with their very high housing costs.

Jacinda Ardern: Does part of his plan to address this issue in a “wide number of ways” include selling State houses so that we now have 3,000 fewer social houses today than when he came into office?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I want to thank the other parties for their support for the reforms of State housing. The pressures in the market have shown that we have too many of the wrong sort of houses, in poor condition, in the wrong places. This Government has grappled with the complex task of ensuring there is more appropriate social housing and growing numbers of social houses available to those who need them.

Jacinda Ardern: Will he work with me to ensure that everyone has an a affordable, safe, secure place to live, by building starter homes, by banning overseas speculators, and by requiring all rentals to be warm and dry, because that is what all New Zealanders want this Parliament to do?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Overseas purchasers of houses in New Zealand now have to pay a withholding capital gains tax when they sell them. That may have been part of the dampening effect on the market, as it is now. The other measures that the member has mentioned are under way, including the regulation that all houses by 2019 need to be insulated.

6 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  August 1, 2017

    Watch Kelvin, scribbling out his coup plan.

    • Loki

       /  August 1, 2017

      Kelvin is busy scribbling out his plan to get a high list place. Nothing more.
      Labour are finished.

      • Brown

         /  August 1, 2017

        I hope so but it saddens me they were killed by a rightish party that turned to the dark side and occupied their leftie ground.

      • Labours Maori MP’s opted not to stand on the list as a sign of confidence in holding there seats… do you think KD will step back from that?

    • drivel. try to grow up, there’s still time for you.