Ardern versus English, round 2

Gezza commented:

Just watched Jacinda go head to head with Bill on housing affordability, Question 2.

Bill was unflappable. But. Have to say, I reckon she’s heaps better than Andy!
Be interested what anyone else thinks.

Here’s the exchange:

2. JACINDA ARDERN (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement, “our approach to housing is succeeding”, given that just one in five New Zealanders under 40 own their own home?

 Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes, although I would note that the member’s figures include 16-, 17-, 18-, and 19-year-olds, where homeownership rates are likely to be pretty low. But the Government’s approach is succeeding by increasing the construction of houses and helping first-home buyers. Help for first-home buyers includes giving them access to their KiwiSaver savings, and HomeStart grants, which have helped 27,000 first-home buyers in the first 2 years. These 27,000 first-home buyers have been able to access around $1 billion from their KiwiSaver accounts and there is sufficient funding available for HomeStart to assist 90,000 first-home buyers over the next 3 years.

Jacinda Ardern: If he is succeeding, why has the homeownership rate fallen every quarter under his Government, for 9 years, according to Statistics New Zealand?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is a phenomenon around the developed world, actually—[Interruption] Homeownership rates have fallen slowly across the developed world over the last 25 years. Our task is to ensure—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise for interrupting the Prime Minister. A reasonable question has been asked by the Leader of the Opposition. I want to hear the answer, even if some of the Leader of the Opposition’s colleagues do not.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said in answer to the first question, we have provided HomeStart grants to 27,000 first-home buyers, and we have enough funding available to assist about another 60,000 first-home buyers. The most important thing that we are doing is getting more houses on the ground faster, so that in the long run people will be able to more readily afford to buy their own home.

Jacinda Ardern: Is it harder for a young person to buy a house today than it was a generation ago?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, we can argue both sides of that. In 2007 when that party left power, interest rates were twice what they are today—10 percent first mortgage rates. Back in the early 1980s, interest rates were 20 percent—20 percent first mortgage rates. So it has always been difficult for first-home buyers. At the moment, the challenge is not so much servicing the debt; it is getting a deposit, and that is why we have the HomeStart scheme, and up to 90,000 New Zealanders will be able to take advantage of that.

David Seymour: How has this Government’s approach to the housing market been affected by the policy settings it inherited?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The main change that has been made is actually in the planning laws, because the policy settings we inherited were councils and legislation that were designed to stop our cities growing. That has now changed. All our councils are trying to accommodate growth, and that is why we have record levels of housing construction and we expect that to continue for several years.

Jacinda Ardern: How can it be easier for this generation of first-home buyers, when an Auckland homebuyer now, on average, needs to save a $200,000 deposit to buy a home?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I did not say it was easier, I said it has always been difficult, and that is why—[Interruption] It always has been, because when interest rates were 18 percent, and when interest rates were 10 percent, under the Labour Government, it was hard to service that size of debt. In fact, a lot of households simply could not afford to borrow the amount of money they do if they were on Labour’s interest rates. That is why we have HomeStart in place to assist them with getting the deposit, and also the Welcome Home Loan guarantee.

Jacinda Ardern: Given he himself has said that it is a major problem that only 5 percent of new houses are affordable starter houses, why, after 9 years in Government, is there still this huge shortage of homes to get young people on the property ladder?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The supply of homes coming on to the market now is more than ever, and that is likely to continue. [Interruption] In the next 3 years New Zealand will build Dunedin, which is our fourth- or fifth-largest city. In the next 3 years New Zealand will build Dunedin, and that is in response to a strong economy, strong population growth, and Kiwis staying home. Of course it is a bit of a challenge, but we are up to dealing with these challenges of success, whereas our opponents just want to shut the country down, to make it easier for them.

Marama Fox: Can the Prime Minister explain whether it is easier or harder for Māori to get a home mortgage since Labour dismantled the Department of Māori Affairs and mainstreamed housing into Housing New Zealand’s hands?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no prime ministerial responsibility for another party’s policies in the past.

Jacinda Ardern: If his Government is indeed building more houses than ever, why is there a shortfall of at least 40,000 homes, particularly in Auckland, that is growing by the day?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, we do not accept those estimates about shortfalls. Secondly, the Auckland Council—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I gave a warning earlier, saying that once questions are asked I have got to hear the answer. Unless I can get some cooperation from some members to my left, I will be asking somebody to leave the Chamber. It is not something I am keen to do, but the level of interjection and the excitement amongst some of the members to my left is just unacceptable and it does not help the decorum of this House.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is no doubt that it took Auckland Council a while to understand how successful the New Zealand economy has been and the way that it is keeping home, in the last 5 years, 150,000 Kiwis who were predicted to leave. But when it passed the Auckland Unitary Plan, just 18 months or 2 years ago, it did then signal it wanted Auckland to grow, and that is exactly what is happening. If we can sustain the current rate of house building there for a number of years, you will see it more possible for young New Zealanders to own their own home.

Jacinda Ardern: Can we agree that the Government has a role to play in helping the next generation on to the housing ladder, and that that requires a Government willing to build affordable starter homes for first-home buyers and a Government willing to lock out speculators, as a Labour Government would do?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not just a matter of agreement; actually, that is what is happening. The Government has announced its own building plan on its own land in Auckland—35,000 houses over the next 10 years. It has put a billion dollars of infrastructure funding on the table, which is going to bring forward 60,000 houses across our fast-growing cities. As I have said, we have the funding in place to assist 60,000 more young New Zealanders into their first home.


1 Comment

  1. sorethumb

     /  August 2, 2017

    “Challenges of success”. What a bullsh**er.